Leader: Mind the pay gap

May 11, 2007

At first sight, the 14 per cent disparity in pay between female and male academics does not compare too badly with the 25 per cent gap in the legal profession and the 32 per cent chasm in corporate management. The gap has narrowed in the past few years, and those institutions at the bottom of our table realise there is a problem and are addressing it. Moreover, bald comparisons of female and male pay cannot reflect factors with more influence on pay discrepancies - such as qualifications or experience - than gender bias.

But even when those issues are taken into consideration, the speed at which the gap is narrowing is far too slow, and the differences between institutions suggest that there are practices that they can put in place to help. Women lecturers will outnumber their male peers in two years' time.

In 15 years, they will constitute a majority of academics but, if current trends continue, they will not achieve parity with their male equivalents until 2070. To speed up that glacial rate of change, institutions should, at least, adopt two strategies.

The first is to establish flexible conditions to give those with family responsibilities the space to pursue their careers. The second is to identify and nurture suitable female academics for senior management positions: a larger cohort of female pro-vice chancellors will do much to advance the cause of women at all levels of an institution.

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