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Female faculty experience discrimination; statistics show no significant salary difference

Though Peg Yacobucci has a PhD in her field, unlike some of her male counterparts, she’s been discouraged throughout her entire education and career.

Some of the faculty who taught her “insisted women were good at teaching but would never be as good as men at research,” said Yacobucci, a geology professor at the University.

“They said you can’t be a good researcher unless you have a wife at home,” she said. “[I] didn’t take it as discouraging … [I thought] ‘you’re an idiot, we’ll prove you wrong.’”

Discouraging comments or actions like these are known as microaggressions and are a form of discrimination.

Yacobucci experiences many of these every day as a female in a Science Technology Engineering and Math field.

“[They] irk you for five minutes and then you move on,” she said. “They happen a lot, but they wouldn’t ever occur to a male faculty member.”

Yacobucci isn’t the only woman experiencing microaggressions and other forms of discrimination; research shows that women deal with discrimination, are less likely to negotiate for pay, more likely to have household duties on top of work outside the home and more likely to volunteer for service jobs at work, said Mary Ellen Benedict, chair of the Economics Department at the University.

These factors and traits women possess can contribute to the wage gap between men and women and the fact that by the time an average woman is 65, she will have lost $431,000 during her working life due to the wage gap, according to and U.S. Census Data.

Though this statistic is true nationally, Nancy Shafer Boudreau, director of the Center for Business Analytics at the University, ran numbers provided by the University and found that among full-time faculty, there is a $48 difference between males and females, which is not “statistically significant,” Boudreau said.

At the University, the average salary for female faculty members is $63,900 a year and for male faculty members it is $72,741; this pay difference of almost $9,000 in the average wages of men and women faculty members is most likely due to factors other than gender.

There may be differences due to the number of years faculty members have been at the University and the disciplines men and women are in. For example, women are more likely to teach English and men are more likely to teach in STEM fields, which pay more than English. Factors such as these could tip the scales in men’s favor.

In addition, men are more likely to be full professors, which also leads to higher salaries compared to their female counterparts, Benedict said in an email.

“Women are likely stuck at the associate professor level for a myriad of reasons,” Benedict said in the email. “One is that their other duties at work and home reduce the amount of time that a woman could spend on research, a key to being promoted to full … A second reason may be that women are not encouraged to go up for full, while men either don’t care about being encouraged, they just go up, or men are encouraged at a high rate than women, suggesting discrimination.”

There are more men in higher ranks at the University. For example, 65 percent of full professors are male, according to information on faculty salary provided by the University.

“When you get to some of those older ranks you have the burden of the past and then you start to get into all the other factors,” said Joseph Frizado, vice provost for Academic Operations and Assessment. “There are more males than females as full professors and the difference gets less and you go down the ranks.”

There’s also the fact that women are less likely to negotiate pay than men. If women aren’t negotiating salaries, they start out at a lower pay and may never be able to regain that pay, Benedict said.

Frizado said in his more than 30 years at the University, women’s propensity to negotiate has changed.

“I think that is becoming less likely [that women won’t negotiate],” he said.

Women volunteer for more service jobs than men in the workplace, sometimes leaving little time for merit-gaining research.

There is a “long standing perception that women get ‘stuck’ doing more service than men do,” Yacobucci said.

It’s typically expected that women will do the office work of organizing an office party, birthdays and doing social care things like sending flowers to a co-worker because of a death, Krueger said.

“[With service jobs, men] say no because they can and women say yes because they think they’re supposed to because we don’t want to be seen as cold and bitchy,” Krueger said.

Yacobucci participated in a study Case Western Reserve University did and said in the focus groups when service came up, women said it’s not rewarded or recognized but that they do more than men. Females could even be penalized for doing service, which every faculty member must do, while others are rewarded for the research they get done when others are doing service.

Service work could negatively benefit women’s salary and promotion because each year, faculty members go through a merit review which directly impacts their salary.

They are evaluated on what is called their “allocation of effort,” or the amount of teaching, research and service they do each year. Each department at the University expects a different combination of the three, but research is usually highly valued.

The workplace isn’t the only place where women may be doing more of the service work than their male co-workers.

Women are more likely to do more of the household work, which can cut into the time they have to do research or other faculty work. This may have to do with childcare as well as housework, said Mary Krueger, director of the University Women’s Center.

“If the raising of children wasn’t so gendered, we wouldn’t see this pay equality that is so gendered,” Krueger said. “Kind of the go-to theory is that women step out of employment [for children] and go back in … And because they know they want to step out [they may] go into a profession that is flexible and pays less.”

Yacobucci has always been in a field with very few other women and said while she’s been called “Mrs. Yacobucci” instead of “Dr. Yacobucci,” paleontology has always come first to her.

“I’ve wanted to be a paleontologist since I was 5 years old, [it was my] first priority,” she said. “I wasn’t thinking about kids … [or] how I want to live my life.”

*Information on salary and wages provided by the University. Statistics in bar graph and line graph calculated by Nancy Shafer Boudreau, director of University Center for Business Analytics.

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