Gender equity remains an open question at U.

David Lehr and David Lehr

In 1972, the Faculty Senate formed an Ad Hoc Committee on the Status of Women to issue a report as a “first step in what must be a continuing analysis” of gender equity among faculty at the University.

The next step came over 20 years later.

In 1993, the senate formed a new Ad Hoc Committee on Gender Equity. After much study, the committee issued a report that found evidence of gender inequity among faculty salaries. A second committee, the Gender Equity Research Group (GERG), was formed to study the findings of the previous committee. In February 1995, the GERG issued its “Final Report.”

Since that time, the issue of gender equity among faculty at the University has gone virtually unaddressed.

In 1972, the senate’s first committee examined gender equity based upon salary. The committee decided on mathematical models of the day and applied them to the University’s salary book. In the end, their findings were not encouraging. At similar years of service, women earned up to $948 less than their male counterparts. Furthermore, the average female Associate Professor held the rank for 12 years while the average male was promoted after 8 years.

The committee recommended several remedial actions, among them coordinating a Women’s Studies program and creating a permanent commission to monitor gender equity.

While the Women’s Studies program was coordinated, the commission was not created, and gender equity fell out of sight and out of mind. When the Senate formed a new committee in 1993, Mary Ellen Benedict, an associate professor of economics, became a member of that committee.

“The committee had three main goals,” Benedict said. “First, we wanted to mimic the original study, as limited as its techniques were, just to see if anything changed.”

Unfortunately, gender equity was unresolved. Using similar techniques and models as the 1972 report, the committee found that female professors earned up to $7,577 less than their male counterparts.

“Second, we added new techniques to further the analysis. In particular, we needed a multiple regression analysis,” Benedict said.

The model used multiple regression to predict the salary of male faculty from independent variables such as years of service and tenure. The committee predicted female salaries based upon the male variables, and the difference between the predicted and the actual salary of the women represented the pay inequity. With this model, female faculty earned up to $2,807 less on average than male faculty.

Furthermore, women still were not promoted as often or as quickly as men.

“Third, we wanted focus groups on gender equity,” Benedict said. While several professors and administrative personnel remember hearing about focus groups, no report from any such group is on public record.

The reception of the senate was mixed about the report. “The committee presented the study in three separate reports,” Benedict said. “The first report upset some people in the senate.”

Based on these concerns, former University president Olscamp formed the GERG to investigate the findings. The GERG convened with a difficult goal in mind. Deanne Snavely, a chemistry professor, was on the committee.

“We wanted to create a complete salary model that included all possible variables that determine salary.” Snavely said.

While the previous committee chose to exclude rank as a variable from its model, the GERG viewed rank as a definite indicator of salary.

“Our committee agreed that if rank is excluded, there is a significant salary differential,” Snavely said. “However if rank is included, no significant differential is found.”

Given this difference, the committees split on whether gender inequity is a problem at the University. However, one problem tainted both studies.

“The possible error in our model was plus or minus $5,000. That’s a big margin for error,” Snavely said.

Indeed, the possible error was comparable in the previous study as well.

“Given an error like that, you may not be able to answer scientifically whether there is gender inequity among faculty salary at BGSU,” Snavely said.

The issue of gender equity among University faculty remains an open question. If readers would like to join in an online petition to encourage the administration to consider gender equity, simply send an e-mail to [email protected]. Pay attention in coming days for a follow-up article, “The Future of Gender Equity Among Faculty.”

Also contributing greatly to this story were Peter Fong, Jill Grunenwald, and Mark Messa.