The Daily Tar Heel

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Wednesday October 20th

N.C. State To Probe Salary Gap

But that's where the similarities end.

Despite similar workloads, female faculty earn significantly less than their male counterparts, sparking debates about gender inequity at campuses nationwide.

But one UNC-system school is looking to eliminate the salary gap on its campus and, one hopes, others will follow in its place.

N.C. State University Provost Stuart Cooper announced last month that the university will comprehensively examine the salaries of all of its female faculty and make salary adjustments if there is a discrepancy between their pay and that of men in similar positions.

The move follows a yearlong study at the university where the salaries of 1,581 faculty members were examined, and it was found that on average, female faculty earned about $1,000 less than white men in the same positions.

The study also found discrepancies of about $2,000 between the salaries of minority men and white men.

N.C. State officials estimate that 237 of its 371 women and 134 of its 161 minority men might be eligible for pay increases to offset the gender and race salary gaps. In all, the university could spend $600,000 in salary adjustments according to a campus bulletin.

In working to remove the salary gaps, N.C. State is moving away from an alarming trend at colleges nationwide.

According to the National Education Association's 2001 Almanac of Higher Education, female faculty at public universities earned $10,301 less than their male counterparts during the 1999-2000 academic year.

NEA officials cited a lack of women in top faculty positions as a possible reason for the salary gaps. For example, 55 percent of campus lecturers nationwide are female, but only 24 percent of professor positions are held by women.

On many campuses, like N.C. State, university officials are working to eliminate the gap in hopes of improving the morale of female faculty on their campuses. But there are other benefits of raising salaries.

By closing the salary gap, universities would be taking a bold step toward promoting equal pay for equal work. The workload for a professor or lecturer does not decrease simply because the position's holder happens to be a woman. So the pay should not be any lower. Also, since all faculty are required to meet the same qualifications to be hired the pay should be the same as well.

Eliminating the gender salary gap also will help university officials diversify their faculties. For years, UNC-system chancellors have counted increasing female and minority faculty as one of their top goals.

But if there is a pay discrepancy, potential applicants might be swayed to other universities. Thus, salary adjustments might make the UNC system more competitive in attracting the best people to the state.

Any skeptics needing proof that eliminating the salary gap is possible or that it helps in recruitment need only look at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

In 1992, Madison officials increased the salaries of about 86 percent of the university's female faculty after discovering significant gaps between the pay of male and female faculty.

Seven years later, the university reported that gaps between men's and women's salaries had almost been eliminated and that in at least two departments, women earned more than men.

The salary adjustments were part of a campuswide initiative to improve the status of women on the UW campus. To date, efforts have increased the presence of female faculty with women holding 22.9 percent of all faculty positions in 1999 compared to 16.3 percent in 1988.

In acknowledging the presence of a gender gap and working to overcome it, N.C. State could potentially see a boost in faculty morale and an increase of female applicants to the university, just like UW-Madison.

Other UNC-system campuses could see the same results. They just have to be willing to conduct surveys of their faculty salaries and demand that any inequities be removed.

Columnist April Bethea can be reached at adbethea@email.unc.edu.

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