Pay scales tipped against female professors

Wage inequity remains a problem on Queen’s Campus

Female academics regularly earn less than their male counterparts.
Photo: 

Gender inequity at Queen’s isn’t a thing of the past. 

Out of the top hundred earners at Queen’s University in 2014, only 26 were women, according to the Ontario Sunshine List — a legally-mandated list of employees at publicly-funded organizations who earn over $100,000 a year. 

While women are represented almost equally at the rank of adjunct (contracted) professor, only around a third of full professors at Queen’s are women. Female representation also varies widely by faculty. Women are prominent in lower-paid faculties but difficult to find in higher-paid disciplines. 

“[Gender pay equity] is something that you would think that in 2016 ... it would just go without saying,” said Kathleen Lahey, a Law professor at Queen’s who specializes in law and gender equity. 

“But Canada has a gender equality problem. It has been going backwards on gender equality issues for at least 20 years now and there aren’t going to be any quick fixes.”

Gender inequity affects both staff and students at the university. For students who self-identify as women, seeing other women being passed over for jobs or simply absent from their academic setting can be discouraging. 

“When women are not, I would say, a full 50 per cent of a discipline, it’s very, very easy for gender hierarchies to make it more difficult for women to feel confident in the classroom, in their studies, in job interviews, in forming their aspirations, just generally how they feel about themselves,” Lahey said. 

Queen’s has struggled in the past to incorporate diversity into its faculty and student body. 

According to the Henry Report — a report on systemic racism at Queen’s presented to the Senate in 2006 — the academic environment of the University was pervaded by “myths and erroneous assumptions [that] … serve to reproduce the invisible power and privilege of Whiteness and maleness within the cultural values and norms of the system.”

And while the University has made vast strides since the report was released, there’s still a long way to go. 

In 2011, the University Senate approved an Academic Plan for Queen’s. The plan, drafted by a Senate Task Force that spent 10 months examining the state of the University, provided recommendations for the university’s future. 

The final plan states that, “women are … underrepresented in academic leadership positions. In addition, women’s median salaries remain below those of their male colleagues.” 

(Graphic by Ashley Quan)

While the plan was finalized in 2011, few of its recommendations have received the attention they deserve, according to one of its authors, Dr. Petra Fachinger. Fachinger is an English professor and the Equity Representative on the Queen’s University Faculty Association (QUFA).  

Speaking in an email to The Journal, Fachinger wrote that “female faculty members continue to be underrepresented on senior search committees and receive less internal and external recognition for their research.” 

Achieving gender pay equity is by no means a straightforward endeavor. Discrimination in the workplace can occur in many forms other than simple representation rates. 

According to Professor Lahey, the issue of pay equity includes three different aspects of workplace discrimination. The first aspect is the ability to get a job without being discriminated against. 

Ensuring equal hiring practices comes down to having an employment equity program in place to eliminate discriminatory criteria and collect data on the representation of designated under-represented groups. 

Because Queen’s has more than 3,600 employees and receives nearly $59 million from the government each year, it must abide by the Federal Contractor’s Program (FCP).

Under the FCP’s mandate, Queen’s must collect and analyze workforce data related to equity. This responsibility falls to the Equity Office, which then reports to the federal government and the University administration. 

However, “there is less direct hard and fast legal regulation of employment and hiring practices at universities under the FCP now then there was before 2012,” Lahey said.  

The FCP focuses largely on the representation rates of designated groups, not pay equity data. It’s less effective at monitoring the second and third aspects of pay equity — equal pay for equal work and equal pay for work of equal or comparable value, according to Lahey. 

The 2014 Equity Office Annual Report indicates that between 2013 and 2014 the representation of women in academic positions decreased from 40.4 per cent to 38.4 per cent. According to a statement from the Provost Alan Harrison, it’s currently at 37.4 per cent, while the census representation rate is 43.3 per cent. 

To address this gap, the Equity Office has developed a new Employment Equity Framework, a report on which will be available in three years time. 

Underrepresentation in numbers, however, doesn’t take into account whether women are being promoted and rewarded equally. 

Speaking in terms of a general trend, Lahey said universities “have a problem in that the higher you go up in the academic ranks, the more male-concentrated the positions are.”  

Hiring or promotion decisions at Queen’s are made by a committee of peers who’ve received equity training and an equity representative. The equity representative on the committee is the only one who knows whether the faculty is underrepresented in a certain group, and whether applicants have self-identified as part of an underrepresented group. 

Applicants’ self-identification as a member of a designated group then becomes a factor only when deciding between applicants of equal standing.  

This ensures that there’s no potential for backlash against a candidate who other employees may suspect has been hired simply to fill an equity quota. 

The number of faculties that follow this process has increased over the last decade. Of the faculty hired in 2014, 79 per cent were compliant in completing the equity reporting process for new faculty hires and 91.8 per cent were compliant for continuing appointments, renewal, tenure and promotion. 

Nevertheless, there remains a gender imbalance among the top academic positions in the faculty. 

48.2 per cent of adjunct professors at Queen’s are women. However, adjunct professors work on contract, are paid significantly less than professors and make up only 21.2 per cent of overall academic positions at Queen’s. 

Meanwhile, 54.2 per cent of academic positions are professors, who are paid more and have greater job security. Only 33.2 per cent of professors at Queen’s are women. 

Even if women are well-represented in general across university faculties, they are less likely to occupy higher-paid, more secure positions than their male counterparts.  

(Graphic by Ashley Quan)

“I know that there are faculty members who feel very strongly that there may be some real bias when it comes to women and promotions,” Queen’s University Advisor on Equity and Human Rights Irene Bujara said.

“Likely, women are tenured at probably the same rate. The question is: are there are as many women to get tenured? And no, there aren’t,” she said. 

Equity-aware hiring processes ensure that discriminatory criteria — for instance whether a woman took longer to reach a certain point in her career due to having a child — isn’t used against applicants. But it only works if there are enough applicants from designated groups put forward as applicants in the first place. 

“The fact is that many times, in a particular discipline, the women are not actually available in that discipline at the rate of university professors,” Bujara said. 

But while a lack of applicants to choose from explains part of the underrepresentation, it doesn’t explain all of it. 

“I’m not sugarcoating it. There are faculties that would need to make a real push to make sure they are represented at the level at which the actual representation for the discipline exists,” Bujara said. 

Regardless of disparity in faculty ranks, underrepresentation in different faculties becomes a pay equity concern when women are statistically underrepresented in traditionally higher-paid disciplines. 

“Faculty in the humanities are paid far less than faculty in the sciences, for example,” Eleanor Macdonald, a professor of Political Studies at Queen’s, told The Journal in an email. 

“This leads to significant gender differences in salary; the humanities have proportionately the highest percentage of women faculty and the sciences have the lowest.” 

But equal representation in academics isn’t just about equitable hiring practices, and it’s not just about everyone getting paid the same. Inequity among professors makes inequity among their students as well. 

Dr. Karen Dubinsky, a professor of History and Global Development Studies, said a male history professor once told one of her students that he shouldn’t go into history because it was too female dominated. This remark was made at a time when she was one of three female professors in an otherwise male faculty. 

She said there’s hope to be found in students noticing the problems of underrepresentation in academia. 

“When young white males of this undergrad generation walk into a room that is dominated by young white males with very few people of colour, or very few women, I think they notice that,” she said.

 “I think more of them notice that, and think about being a part of the solution.”

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.