For Faculty, Wages Still Unequal

by ANTHONY DePINHO, Contributor, and STEPHEN ZUBRYCKY, Editor 

The average American woman earns 21 percent less than the average American man, according to research published in 2015 by the American Association of University Women, a non-profit organization; while Pew Research pegs the gap at 16 percent.

“There is absolutely a wage differential,” said Cory Blad, Ph.D., an associate professor of sociology at Manhattan College.

There are varying statistics on the topic, but, according to Blad, women generally make somewhere between 75 and 80 cents for every dollar a man makes.

In the past few decades, women have been steadily making up ground in wages. According to Pew, women made 36 percent less than men in 1980. And according to Blad that trend has been amplified in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

“Over the past few years, particularly in the post-recession area, one of the reasons why is because the rate of women re-entering the job force, especially in former two-wage-earner households, has increased at a faster rate than male participation has,” Blad said. “It’s bumped up the differential from 75 cents to about 77 to 80.”

According to Blad, one of the biggest reasons for the recent improvements in wage is “the assumption that women will be paid less.”

Neither Manhattan College, nor academia as a whole are exceptions to the wage rule.

“There are pay differentials at Manhattan College. There are pay differentials throughout higher education,” Blad said.

Bridget Chalk, Ph.D., is an associate professor of English – and is married to Brian Chalk, Ph.D., also from the English department – does not observe an unfair pay disparity between her and her husband. But the gender wage gap manifests itself in far more numerous ways than just the number written on the paycheck.

“I think that in academia, as in most places, men can sometimes be the beneficiary of deals that women may or may not have access to,” said Natalia Imperatori-Lee, Ph.D., an associate professor of religious studies who specializes in feminist theology.

“With my husband and I, there’s parity. We make essentially the same thing,” Imperatori-Lee said of she and her husband, who is an assistant professor at Fordham University. “Pay in academia happens in a lot of ways. It happens in finances, but it also happens in course releases, grants, who gets to run a program.”

Child-bearing plays a role in compensation as well, and can have an effect described by Chalk as “the motherhood penalty,” whereby women are disadvantaged by the need for maternity leave.

According to Blad, there is room for improvement in Manhattan’s family leave policy and he classified it as “dated.”

Chalk, however, disagrees and calls Manhattan’s family leave policy “one of the best parts of working at this college,” citing benefits including a semester off with reduced pay and an option to pause the tenure clock.

Salary negotiation can be especially difficult for women in the workplace, compared to their male counterparts.

“If the assumption is that a man will get offered a position and negotiate the salary because it’s the quote-unquote ‘masculine thing to do,’ his negotiation for his salary ends up becoming viewed as a positive,” Blad said. “If a woman comes in, potentially, that socialization could be, ‘Well, I shouldn’t push. I shouldn’t be aggressive.’”

“I suspect generally that, yes, women are sort of at a disadvantage with negotiations just because of kind of perceptions of women as less assertive, less confident, and the ideas that people who are doing the negotiating have about women – not that women are actually that way,” Chalk said. “I don’t think in our school that women are disadvantaged in negotiations, but I also don’t have any experience in knowing how my colleagues negotiated their starting salary.”

Blad, however, knows an example of this phenomenon.

“When I was hired, I asked for more money. And I was given some more money,” he said. “A colleague of mine who was hired at the same time, who happened to be female, didn’t ask for more money and I’m making more than she is. She’s doing the exact same job I’m doing, and I’m making more money than she is. I am indicative of the pay differential.”

On the situation here at Manhattan, Imperatori-Lee said it was better than at other institutions.

“I think that we have historically been very good about keeping a balance between men and women but I don’t think that women are compensated quite equally,” she said.

Blad, however, disagrees, saying hoe doenst think the school doing enough to bridge the gap.

“I would not say there is a concerted effort to equalize pay along gender lines here,” he said. “I would not say there’s even really recognition that there is a pay differential because I don’t think many people have been keeping tabs on it.”

Currently, there is no available data on the pay differential at Manhattan College, which Blad takes issue with.

“I think the very fact that we really don’t have data on a gender pay differential is a problem,” Blad said. “Until we start taking those kind of realities seriously, all of those other possibilities won’t go anywhere.”