Full-time faculty salary data gathered by the Chronicle is obtained through the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). The Chronicle has used IPEDS data to report salary averages for male and female professors, organized by academic rank, at almost 5,000 colleges.
The disparity among UNC professors may appear to be discrimination at first glance, but UNC professors say other factors may be at play.
“You can’t offer two candidates different amounts of money for doing the same job if they’re completely identical. Legally, you can’t,” said Kalina Staub, UNC teaching assistant professor of economics. “Usually there’s some sort of salary range for a position, and a lot of your wage offer is determined by things like your education, your experience, things that influence your ability to perform the job.”
Staub said the right for females to be educated at the highest level is still a relatively new development, which she suggests may influence the amount of wages offered to a female professor compared to a male professor.
“If men have historically had more training, you would expect them to be paid higher wages,” Staub said. “If we have more men going into technology fields, and STEM jobs pay more money, then if all we’re looking at is the average salary of men compared to the average salary of women, of course we’re going to see that women are making less than men.”
That over $20,000 difference in the highest position in faculty may not purely be a product of explicit discrimination, but Staub said that implicit biases can still hurt female professors.
“One of the main criteria that our raises, our promotions, our hiring decisions are based on is student-teacher evaluations. And there’s been a number of studies that have come out recently that have shown that there’s huge gender bias in student-teacher evaluations,” Staub said.
Researchers in 2016 studied groups of students taking the same online course. In half the courses, male professors adopted female names, while female professors took of male names.
Across the board, the professors with male names received higher ratings.
“Women get rated much lower than men on a variety of measures,” Staub said. “We’re seen to be less knowledgeable, less interesting, meaner, more strict than a similar male. So if we’re doing the same work and getting worse teacher evaluations, then that’s going to reflect negatively in wages and promotion decisions.”
According to the data from the Chronicle, men outnumber women in the three highest positions among faculty: full professor, associate professor and assistant professor. Among those positions, UNC employed 797 men and 540 women in 2016. This disparity in representation has been the case since data collection began.
Continue moving along the ranks into non-tenure track positions, however, and the gap flips. At UNC, female instructors and lecturers usually outnumber male counterparts.
“Teaching positions are typically paid at a lower rate than research positions,” Staub said. “But they’re also more flexible. It’s nine-month contracts and you don’t have an obligation to the university over summer.”
Donna Gilleskie, a UNC economics professor, says that a person’s wage can be looked at akin to a price, the good being that which the university expects to receive from their professors.
"Some individuals choose to spend a larger proportion of their time on mentoring and service activities, relative to research activities," Gilleskie said. "Institutions can impact how professors allocate their time to these inputs by paying more for the inputs that are valued. So, what do we value?"
Salaries for the top three levels of academic rank are determined by three components: research, teaching and service, which includes serving on committees and advising students. A heavier weight is applied to the first two categories.
Research shows, however, that female professors tend to take on more service than men, reducing the time they have to spend on research. These factors, combined with others, make it harder for female professors to receive promotions.
“When you have studies coming out saying women are doing more service, that the burden of household duties fall to women disproportionately, when you have teaching evaluations that seem to be biased, in theory it shouldn’t be harder, there's the same bar, but I think there are hurdles that make it more of a struggle for women to reach that bar,” Staub said.