Gender wage discrimination can’t be explained, Iowa study says

The gender gap in the salaries of professors is partially unexplainable, according to a study by a professor of higher education at the University of Iowa.

Before Paul D. Umbach adjusted for factors that might skew the sample such as benefits accrued from seniority, outside support for research and demand for professors in individual disciplines, the mean salary for women was 21.8 percent less than that of men.

After compensating for those factors, male professors still earn 6.8 percent more than women.

The study was based on a 1999 National Study of Postsecondary Faculty, and was limited to 2,758 professors in 79 disciplines at research universities who were full-time, tenured or on tenure track.

The pay gap is not limited to professions in academia. In a report released in June 2004, U.S. Census Bureau found that out of the 505 professions surveyed, women earned the same amount of money than men in only 11.

The study also found that as wages go up, the gaps in median earnings also go up. At the lowest end of the pay gap, women make almost as much as 90 percent as men, and at the higher end women’s earnings don’t even reach 50 percent of men’s.

Though the results of the survey are startling to some researchers, others point to the fact that the pay gap between men and women has decreased over time. In 2002, women made 77 cents for every dollar men make, up five cents from 1998 and 17 cents from 1960.

The survey also did not account for the time that earners, particularly women, are out of the labor force to raise children.

According to an interview on National Public Radio’s “Talk of the Nation,” Christine Rosen, the co-author of “Women’s Figures: An Illustrated Guide to the Economic Progress of Women in America” said that many working women are constrained by the lack of childcare and even what influenced their occupational training or college major. Married women also face a major tax increase, or marriage penalty, for working women who earn about the same amount of money as their husbands.

Dr. Beatrice Catherino, an English professor at Oakland Community College in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, agrees.

“The problem in pay inequity isn’t just base salary, but also the difficulty women have working overtime or overload and taking on extra paying commitments above salary,” Catherino said.

A 2004 report on the pay gap by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research found considerable difference in the earnings of women and men, as well as significant occupation segregation – women and men working in different occupations.

The study also looked at how much women earned in a 15-year span compared to men. The study found that women only earn 38 percent as much as men. Even though the study found that women work at higher rates over the fifteen years, it concluded that women may take a cut in earnings because they take more time off than men.

Catherino said that the choices and decisions women make may account for part of the pay gap between men and women.

Researchers such as Sharon Block, an associate professor at the University of California at Irvine, agreed. According to an April 25 Inside Higher Ed article, Block said that while equal pay and women’s advancement in academia face real obstacles, one of the biggest obstacles is that women don’t take ownership of their careers and “end up underselling themselves.”

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