Study looks at gender equality

Heather Scarlett

Pay, promotions can be affected by professor’s sex

Gender equality, or lack of, has remained an important issue since women entered the work force. While it still exists at Kent State, many faculty think it’s changing.

“I think that there is equal treatment,” said Deborah Barnbaum, a tenured associate professor of philosophy. “I don’t think equal treatment guarantees equal outcome.”

One of the factors Barnbaum thinks contributes to the current gender gap carries over from older generations. In the past, there was not a lot of equal representation for men and women in the work force.

As those generations retire, the gender gap will start to close, she explained.

Kathryn Wilson, associate professor of economics, did a study on salaries between male and female faculty members in 2003. Wilson also mentioned the generation gap as a factor in gender equality.

“When we just look at gender, we are looking at everything that correlates with gender and that includes experience,” Wilson said.

Wilson was asked to conduct her study by Committee W, a campus group that looks into issues dealing with women and was in the past largely concerned with salary inequities. The committee, an organization that works with the American Association of University Professors, wanted to know if the gap had changed from 1994 when the last study was conducted.

“We wanted to see if the gap we had seen before was still there,” said Kara Robinson, second vice president of the AAUP-KSU tenure-track unit. “There had historically been one and we wanted to see what was going on with that.”

The 1994 study found that female faculty members were paid less and promoted later at a lower rate than similarly situated male faculty members.

Wilson found two-thirds of the gender gap in salary for faculty at Kent State is based off one thing – experience. This means a professor with more years in the field than a newbie just out of graduate school will make more money.

“To me, the gender gap is the change in salary between the genders once other things are controlled for,” Wilson said.

Wilson tried to control for rank in her study, because if women are less likely to be promoted, then that variable could throw off the salary distribution. However, if a reason for the lower promotion rate is the possibility that women are being biased against then they would not have wanted to control that.

“If it is because men have been here longer, we want to control for it because that is a valid reason for gender differences in the study,” she said.

One factor could be that some of the women working at Kent State are just newer faculty, Wilson said, going back to the idea that many of the longer serving faculty have more years and experience.

According to a document from the national AAUP, women have not been welcomed into the faculty ranks, and when it comes time to apply for tenure they face an “inequitable hurdle.” However, it seems at Kent State that men face the same obstacles.

Currently, according to the AAUP-KSU chapter, there are 866 tenured track professors at Kent State, (499 males, 367 females). Of the non-tenured track there are 289 (90 males, 199 females).

Barnbaum said there are general problems for male and female faculty on their way to becoming tenured.

She piled five thick, black 3-ring binders that reached about two-and-a-half feet high onto her desk as she spoke about the problems junior faculty have. These binders contained the immense amounts of work, such as resumes, published books and presentations, that Barnbaum had done in her field of study before becoming tenured. “That is just research,” she said.

“You end up being (very) busy. It is not just about being a woman; men have to do that too,” she said.

Achieving tenure takes a lot of sacrifice, Robinson said, but it also offers a lot of security.

Robinson said tenure gives professors the knowledge that they will have a job next year, be able to financially support children and have academic freedom to write on issues in their field of study.

Some of the hurdles, Robinson said, could be becoming a parent or dealing with an illness, which are factors that can be applied to males or females.

“A lot of our faculty are what we call ‘sandwich’ generation faculty,” she said. They have children to care for, but then they also have parents who are getting older that they have to take care of, Robinson said.

One committee at the university, the Quality of Faculty Work Life committee, deals such issues of concern to the whole faculty which, in the past, may have been called women’s issues, such as putting having marriage and a family on hold, Robinson said.

Robinson said general problems with females in the workforce is subjective because it varies from department to department.

“It depends on who you ask,” she said. Female faculty may think women are considered a minority among faculty, but others may not view it the same.

“My experience is that I have been treated fairly (at Kent State),” Barnbaum said. “(It) involves being given what I deserve. Not more not less.”

Contact academic affairs reporter Heather Scarlett at [email protected].

The national chapter of the American Association of University Professors recently released, “AAUP Faculty Gender Equity Indicators 2006,” showing four indicators of inequalities in the professorial work place. The indicators listed in the document are:

1.The proportion of full-time faculty members who are female.

2.The percent of women within the tenured and tenure-track


3.The proportion of women who are full professors

4.The average salary of female faculty members compared with males.

The document states that women still represent a distinct minority of tenured and tenure-track faculty members, even though women earn more than half of all doctoral degrees earned by American citizens.