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Monday January 24th

UNC Salary Disparities Examined

The comprehensive study was presented to the Faculty Council on Nov. 3 after several campus groups that deal with gender equity approached the chancellor and the provost in 2001, asking for an examination of salary disparities at UNC-CH. The full report's results were made available Wednesday.

Executive Associate Provost Bernadette Gray-Little worked with Lynn Williford, associate provost and director of institutional research, to conduct the study, using methods applied in similar analyses at institutions like N.C. State and Duke universities.

What makes this study different from similar salary analyses done at UNC-CH is that it is a campuswide study, including the clinical areas of the schools of Dentistry and Medicine, and includes non-tenure track faculty.

Provost Robert Shelton said the first thing that needs to be done is to examine the results of individual departments to find out why the disparity is there.

The study shows that about 80 percent of the disparity is due to variables included in the study, such as years at the University and rank. But about 15 percent to 20 percent of the disparity is unexplained.

One theory behind the discrepancy is the idea that women aren't as likely to leave or to threaten to leave for better salaries as are men. Risa Palm, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, where men receive $1,169 more than women, said that while women sometimes do not threaten to leave, this shouldn't be the case.

"One of the issues is that after a certain period, the longer you stay at the University, the more your salary is damaged," Palm said.

Etta Pisano, chairwoman of the UNC-CH Committee on the Status of Women, said one reason women are less likely to threaten to leave is because many want to raise families. There is no excuse to underpay faculty based on these circumstances, she said.

"There are ways to make both men and women more comfortable in the stage of their careers where they want to start a family."

There are large differences in men's and women's salaries in the School of Medicine, where the discrepancy is $6,976. This holds true particularly in the Department of Clinical Medicine, which has the highest disparity at $9,293.

But Jeffrey Houpt, dean of the School of Medicine, said that for a number of years, the school has conducted its own salary review through a salary equity committee. The two women and one minority who constitute the committee have found no disparity, he said.

"We thought this mechanism would protect us from this kind of difficulty," Houpt said. "If there is a problem, then we need to fix it."

Pisano said the problem with the reviews done by the medical school is a lack of transparency about the process and the results.

"They work in an opaque environment -- no one knows who (the reviewers) are."

One of the factors that could have caused such high disparities in the medical school is clinical income, Pisano said. This form of income does not go toward individual salaries but could be awarded to individuals as bonuses for merit.

In the study, separate models were created for the medical school and clinical medical departments to account for clinical income.

But Faculty Council Chairwoman Sue Estroff said the first response would probably be to blame gender salary discrepancies on the methods used in the study.

"This is exactly what I expected, but we're going to hang tough," she said. "I have confidence in the findings."

The study also found that female and minority faculty are underrepresented in the number of higher-paying full professorships they hold.

A lack of women in higher-ranking positions is a result of both tenure and a recent change in the University's hiring practices, Shelton said.

"If you've traditionally been hiring males and only recently begun searching for qualified females, there is going to be inequality," he said.

Shelton said the study is an important step toward equality on campus and in society. "We as a society and a University in society have a long way to go," he said. "Rather than guess, we can see where we need to work on things, and the hard part is just finding the money to change it."

The University Editor can be reached at udesk@unc.edu.

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