De­spite poli­cies to level the gen­der play­ing field, women re­main un­der­val­ued and un­der­paid in Cana­dian academia

The Globe and Mail (Ottawa/Quebec Edition) - - NEWS - BESSMA MO­MANI

Pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Water­loo and the Bal­sil­lie School of In­ter­na­tional Af­fairs, se­nior fel­low at the Cen­tre for In­ter­na­tional Gover­nance In­no­va­tion and lead au­thor of More than a Pipe­line Prob­lem forth­com­ing in Cana­dian Jour­nal of Higher Ed­u­ca­tion in April

In the era of #MeToo and #TimesUp – not to men­tion the Trudeau gov­ern­ment’s self-dec­la­ra­tion as a fem­i­nist gov­ern­ment with im­plicit goals of achiev­ing gen­der equal­ity and eco­nomic in­clu­sion of women – gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion should be tack­led head-on by ev­ery Cana­dian or­ga­ni­za­tion. Univer­sity cam­puses are of­ten at the fore­front of push­ing for pro­gres­sive causes around so­cial eq­uity. While women have achieved gen­der par­ity in Cana­dian uni­ver­si­ties’ stu­dent body, co­horts of PhD grad­u­ates and among ten­ure-track as­sis­tant pro­fes­sors, academia is not the most pro­gres­sive Cana­dian work­places for its pro­fes­sors.

Like much of so­ci­ety, fe­male aca­demics still shoul­der more child-rear­ing re­spon­si­bil­i­ties in their fam­i­lies and the type of work they’re ex­pected to do on cam­pus (such as tak­ing on ad­vis­ing roles) is un­der­val­ued. Pre­vi­ous re­search has shown that male and fe­male pro­fes­sors face dif­fer­ent chal­lenges in get­ting re­search fund­ing, get dif­fer­ent types of rec­om­men­da­tion let­ters that can af­fect their ca­reer ad­vance­ment and are be­ing cited dif­fer­ently in team re­search pub­li­ca­tions be­cause of their gen­der alone. Gen­dered bias runs deep when valu­ing aca­demics’ pro­duc­tiv­ity and value.

The­o­ret­i­cal physi­cist Alessan­dro Stru­mia stood be­fore a Euro­pean univer­sity au­di­ence last Septem­ber to tell its young women that the best sci­en­tific work is cre­ated by men and that fe­male pro­fes­sors were get­ting jobs in physics even though, he wrongly claims, they were unqualified be­cause there is a bias against men. Yet, there con­tin­ues to be an im­bal­ance of fe­male aca­demics study­ing and pro­gress­ing within sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, en­gi­neer­ing and math (STEM) dis­ci­plines, and that is in part to the kind of bias held by pro­fes­sors such as Mr. Stru­mia. While there is grow­ing at­ten­tion to gen­der bias in STEM, the prob­lem is cam­pus-wide and hurts fe­male pro­fes­sors’ in­come.

Last year, the Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Univer­sity Teach­ers (CAUT) iden­ti­fied a me­dian wage gap of ap­prox­i­mately $13,750 be­tween women and men work­ing in Cana­dian uni­ver­si­ties. Us­ing Sta­tis­tics Canada’s data, my re­search team found sig­nif­i­cant gaps be­tween men and women’s earn­ings in academia as well, but more trou­bling than the CAUT find­ings is that as fe­male pro­fes­sors move up the lad­der into se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion, our data shows that the pay gap gets wider for them. These pay gaps are widest among the top re­search-based uni­ver­si­ties, also known as the U15, that we cel­e­brate as na­tional cham­pi­ons for our re­search suc­cesses.

While some may think the short­age of women in STEM is part of the prob­lem, our find­ings show that the gen­der pay gap in uni­ver­si­ties is not bet­ter or worse in these com­pet­i­tive and male­dom­i­nated tech­ni­cal fields. So, for ex­am­ple, while we know that en­gi­neer­ing gen­er­ally had higher gen­der pay gaps than so­cial sci­ence, eco­nomics showed a much larger gap than en­gi­neer­ing.

Us­ing the pub­lic-sec­tor salary dis­clo­sure data or the On­tario “Sun­shine List,” we found On­tario’s pub­licly funded uni­ver­si­ties among the worst of­fend­ing sec­tors to have gen­der pay gap dis­par­i­ties – only be­hind health care and the ju­di­ciary. The bad news does not stop here. The mantra in dis­cus­sions about work­place eq­uity is that we will even­tu­ally, and soon, get to the point of gen­der pay eq­uity; it is just a mat­ter of time. The think­ing goes like this: Pay in­equity is a “pipe­line prob­lem,” gen­der pay gaps are ex­plained by one’s years of ex­pe­ri­ence and as women move into and up the work­place lad­der, pay gaps will even­tu­ally nar­row.

Well, this is not hap­pen­ing. We ex­am­ined women’s years of work in a given univer­sity and, as time went on, the pay gap widened. Pay gaps sim­ply get worse for women who are in higher ad­min­is­tra­tive po­si­tions such as deans. Uni­ver­si­ties are slowly pro­mot­ing women into se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion, so rep­re­sen­ta­tion is im­prov­ing, but are fail­ing to com­pen­sate women with sim­i­lar rank and years of ex­pe­ri­ence. Gen­der pay gaps gen­er­ally in­crease with se­nior­ity. Not only do Cana­dian uni­ver­si­ties still have glass ceil­ings hin­der­ing women from get­ting into the de­ci­sion-mak­ing po­si­tions, but when they break through, they are paid less than men.

The pipe­line is not work­ing, and it is un­fair. No sur­prise then that only 20 per cent of Cana­dian univer­sity pres­i­dents are women and that ra­tio has not changed since the 1990s. For nearly 30 years, the top jobs re­main dom­i­nated by men. Even in academia where pro­fes­sors have PhDs and decades of sci­en­tific-re­search pub­li­ca­tions, men are seen as nat­u­ral lead­ers and women only pro­vid­ing a sup­port­ing role to them.

Uni­ver­si­ties are in­sti­tut­ing poli­cies and pro­ce­dures to level the gen­der play­ing field; how­ever, our find­ings show that these ef­forts have been un­suc­cess­ful at clos­ing the gen­der pay gap. Poli­cies re­main on paper while seats at the de­ci­sion-mak­ing ta­ble are stacked with men, and for those women who get to the top floor, they are grossly un­der­paid. It is 2019 and Cana­dian uni­ver­si­ties need to live up to their pro­gres­sive rep­u­ta­tion.

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