Dispir­it­ing dis­par­i­ties

Uni­ver­si­ties’ gen­der pay gap data dis­ap­point

THE (Times Higher Education) - - FRONT PAGE - rachael.pells@timeshigh­ere­d­u­ca­tion.com

Higher education has long been known to have a gen­der pay gap but the sec­tor’s per­for­mance in the UK govern­ment’s na­tion­wide data col­lec­tion ex­er­cise is none­the­less shock­ing.

Ev­ery univer­sity that sub­mit­ted its data ahead of the 4 April dead­line re­ported that men’s mean pay was higher than women’s, with four out of five in­sti­tu­tions re­veal­ing a gap reach­ing double fig­ures. Thirty in­sti­tu­tions re­ported mean av­er­age pay gaps in ex­cess of 20 per cent per hour.

Anal­y­sis of the data by Times Higher Education shows that women in UK univer­si­ties are paid a mean hourly rate that is, on aver- age, 15.9 per cent lower than men’s. The me­dian av­er­age gap, which tends to re­duce the ef­fect of out­liers, was 16.5 per cent.

The data in­di­cate that women fare worse in higher education than in other sec­tors, with the me­dian pay gap among em­ploy­ers that sub­mit­ted their data stand­ing at 9.7 per cent.

Many of the in­sti­tu­tions with the largest gaps re­ported their data in the fi­nal weeks be­fore the dead­line. The largest pay gap was found at Lon­don Busi­ness School, where women’s mean hourly salary was 45 per cent lower than men’s. This per­haps re­flects the in­dus­try that the in­sti­tu­tion pre­pares its stu­dents for and, hence, where it draws its staff from; the fi­nance sec­tor was found to have one of the largest gen­der pay gaps, and last month HSBC re­vealed one of the high­est re­ported gaps to date at 60 per cent.

The sec­ond-largest gap, a mean av­er­age of 30 per cent, was found at the Royal Ve­teri­nary Col­lege, while Lan­caster Univer­sity and Harper Adams Univer­sity share third place on 27.7 per cent.

No­tice­ably, all these in­sti­tu­tions em­ploy a higher pro­por­tion of men than women in the high­est-paid roles. At LBS, for ex­am­ple, 58.5 per cent of em­ploy­ees in the top salary quar­tile are men; although the gap is largest at Cran­field Univer­sity, where 77.6 per cent of highly paid po­si­tions are held by men.

More broadly, in­sti­tu­tions with med­i­cal schools, which may have highly paid clin­i­cal staff on their pay­rolls, or those that are more re­search-in­ten­sive and are there­fore more likely to have larger pro­fes­so­ri­ates – an area of the higher education work­force known for its gen­der im­bal­ance – tend to re­port larger pay gaps.

For ex­am­ple, of the 30 in­sti­tu­tions re­port­ing the largest mean pay gaps, 13 are mem­bers of the Rus­sell Group of large, re­search­in­ten­sive in­sti­tu­tions. Among the 22 mem­bers of the mis­sion group that sub­mit­ted their data, the mean pay gap was 21.2 per cent, while the me­dian was 16.7 per cent.

In­sti­tu­tions that re­ported the small­est av­er­age pay gaps tend to have a much bet­ter gen­der bal­ance on their top teams. Univer­si­ties with more women than men among their top roles still re­ported over­all

gen­der pay gaps, how­ever. For ex­am­ple, nearly two-thirds of em­ploy­ees in the top salary quar­tile at the Univer­sity of Worces­ter are women, but the univer­sity still re­ported a mean pay gap of 3.2 per cent – al­beit the low­est fig­ure re­ported by a UK higher education in­sti­tu­tion.

Mean­while, at ev­ery UK univer­sity that pro­vided data, women dom­i­nated the low­est salary quar­tile, tra­di­tion­ally rep­re­sent­ing the most poorly paid jobs such as clean­ing and ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Lan­caster said that its fig­ures re­flected a higher con­cen­tra­tion of fe­male staff in the lower grades “for both pro­fes­sional ser­vices staff and for aca­demic, re­search and teach­ing staff”. A spokesman said that the univer­sity em­ployed more than 200 staff in grade 1 part-time po­si­tions, 85 per cent of whom are fe­male.

Higher up the pay scale, Lan­caster has 300 pro­fes­sors, less than a quar­ter of whom are fe­male – some­thing that could in part be at­trib­uted to a low turnover of staff. “There are 23 per cent fe­males at se­nior staff grades, but there are only 27 of these roles,” the spokesman said.

Nev­er­the­less, the size of the pay gaps – and their ex­is­tence in in­sti­tu­tions with a high pro­por­tion of women in highly paid roles – in­di­cates that the prob­lems can­not be blamed on long-stand­ing gen­der di­vides in the work­force alone.

Danny Dor­ling, Hal­ford Mackinder pro­fes­sor of ge­og­ra­phy at the Univer­sity of Ox­ford, said that the “ex­cuses” be­ing given by em­ploy­ers were “amaz­ingly bland” and “none will stand up in a year’s time”.

“Al­most in­vari­ably the gaps are widest among the high­est paid,” he said. “Male and fe­male clean­ers tend to be paid sim­i­lar amounts to each other, but not male and fe­male man­agers, bankers or aero­plane pi­lots.”

Mean­while, the fact that the ma­jor­ity of clean­ing roles are held

by women can­not ex­plain why univer­si­ties per­form worse than other sec­tors, given that this is a na­tion­wide phe­nom­e­non.

Pro­fes­sor Dor­ling sug­gested that, in the univer­sity sec­tor, “what will most likely re­duce the gap will be an elec­tion of a Labour govern­ment and the end of the £9,000-plus-a-year fees bo­nanza”.

“That bo­nanza led to an ex­tra bil­lion pounds in the sec­tor af­ter 2012...run­ning a univer­sity sec­tor on debt is part of what al­lows a small num­ber of men to be­come so highly paid,” he said. “I sus­pect the gap is less in coun­tries with lower stu­dent fees.”

The govern­ment hopes that, by shin­ing a light on gen­der in­equal­ity, firms will be spurred into tak­ing ac­tion to ad­dress the prob­lem. There is some ev­i­dence that this is al­ready hap­pen­ing, even at LBS, which re­ported the big­gest gap.

A spokesman for the in­sti­tu­tion aid that, while its num­bers “still do not re­flect where we want to be”, the in­sti­tu­tion has in­creased the pro­por­tion of ap­pli­ca­tions from fe­male fac­ulty short­listed for in­ter­view for ten­ure-track po­si­tions since the re­port­ing re­quire­ment was in­tro­duced. It has also cre­ated a “fam­ily-friendly task force” to sup­port early to mid-ca­reer fac­ulty, as well as a be­spoke pro­gramme aimed at se­nior women in bank­ing.

Em­ploy­ees will no doubt be keep­ing an eye on how univer­si­ties re­spond and watch­ing closely for com­pla­cency.

Mar­i­anna Dud­ley, lec­turer in en­vi­ron­men­tal humanities at the Univer­sity of Bris­tol, said that she had been dis­ap­pointed to hear the in­sti­tu­tion re­spond to what it called the “good news” that Bris­tol’s 16.2 per cent me­dian pay gap was be­low the na­tional av­er­age.

“I’d like Bris­tol to take real lead­er­ship on this is­sue by mak­ing pro­gres­sive poli­cies that ac­tively ad­dress the gen­der pay gap,” Dr Dud­ley told THE. “Tack­ling is­sues of pro­gres­sion, for ex­am­ple, that de­mand a full recog­ni­tion of the bar­ri­ers that women face, and cru­cially, of­fer real so­lu­tions.

“At the cur­rent rate of change, it will take sev­eral decades to close the gap. That is not good enough.”

On a sec­tor-wide ba­sis, Ad­vance HE, formed by the re­cent merger of the Equal­ity Chal­lenge Unit, the Higher Education Academy and the Lead­er­ship Foun­da­tion for Higher Education, said that it planned to un­der­take fur­ther re­search to un­der­stand how in­sti­tu­tions were plan­ning to tackle their pay gaps.

“Pay gaps are an im­por­tant symp­tom of sys­temic equal­ity, but the sec­tor must look closer: at cul­ture, at recruitment, pro­gres­sion and lead­er­ship to truly un­der­stand and chal­lenge the cause,” said Ellen Pugh, a pol­icy pro­gramme man­ager at the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

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