A recent University report about faculty salary discrepancies brings up questions of gender and race equity at UNC.
The Faculty Salary Equity Task Force’s 2013 report, released in November, offers insight into differences in faculty salary based on gender and race.
According to the report, female faculty in the School of Medicine, other health affairs units and Academic Affairs received lower salaries than their male counterparts.
But Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Jim Dean said there will always be more work to be done to ensure pay equity.
“I’m not in any way being critical of past efforts,” Dean said. “I just think this is something you can never ever be satisfied with. In fact, as soon as you’re complacent, you have the tendency to step backwards.”
Dean said about 80 percent of the variance in salaries could be attributed to factors that should be predictive of salary. Some of these factors include length of employment, academic field, academic rank and additional titles.
“That in itself, I think, is important,” Dean said. “Otherwise, it would be a cause for concern that our system for establishing salaries isn’t very accurate.”
Female faculty members are more likely to be on the fixed-term track, not hold a distinguished title, have spent fewer years in their current position and be in a lower-paying field, which could explain their tendency to receive lower salaries in certain fields.
Among the tenured associate professors appointed between 1990 and 2000, 86.7 percent are white and 64.5 percent are male.
Additionally, among faculty earning a promotion to the position of full professor, Asian faculty typically earned a promotion in 4.8 years, while white faculty took 5.6 years and African-American, Hispanic and Native American faculty — considered collectively — took 5.9 years.
Given the country’s history of misrepresentation in employment, Dean said progress should not go unnoticed.
William Fleming, vice president for human resources of the UNC system, said salary changes have recently been a difficult problem to address because of the weak economy.
“It’s hard for any university to address salary issues because resources haven’t been there,” he said.
Fleming said he thinks UNC is doing what it can to address any unfair discrepancies in a tough economy. He said no one wants unfair pay, but the University might have to be creative in its approach.
But Taffye Clayton, vice provost of diversity and multicultural affairs and chief diversity officer at UNC, said equity is possible because of recent changes at the University.
“With the momentum of Carolina’s new leadership, we definitely want to seize this opportunity to move toward more nuanced action that will produce the gains and achieve the equity that is needed,” Clayton said in an email.
UNC’s first female chancellor, Carol Folt, is deeply invested in diversity, Dean said. He said he expects her to champion the cause of female and minority faculty members.
“I feel like I have an opportunity to show how this is an environment that women can thrive in,” Folt said in an interview in October. “We have a tradition of outstanding female leaders.”
UNC utilizes a Targeted Hiring Program to attract accomplished underrepresented groups for tenure-track appointments. The program, managed by the Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost, provides a full salary for up to four years, at which point an official hiring decision is to be made.
The University also utilizes programs such as the Simmons Scholar Program and the Carolina Postdoctoral Program for Faculty Diversity, which the report said impacted the level of assistant professor positions held by minorities.
The report’s measures are all part of the evolution of the modern workplace, Dean said.
“There was a time when I imagine virtually every single faculty member at UNC was a white male,” Dean said. “It probably wasn’t all that long ago, to be honest with you, but now we have considerable diversity in terms of gender, in terms of ethnicity. But you know, there’s always more work to do.”
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