Address gender gap

May 25, 2007

A certain defensiveness seems to characterise your correspondents' letters on the gender pay gap (Letters, May 18).

I note that Nottingham and Newcastle universities (for which four of your correspondents work) were respectively 97th and 112th in the league table displaying the academic gender pay gap. Of course, it is right to draw attention, as your Nottingham correspondents do, to the fact that the size of the average pay gap reflects the fact that men disproportionately occupy more senior posts than women and to emphasise the need to create conditions in which advancement to higher paid posts is gender-blind.

But to suggest that the use of mean average earnings by the University and College Union to point up the gender pay gap is crude is wide of the mark.

If the comparison used is one comparing like with like, as your Nottingham correspondents imply, acting on this information may well lead to a nil wage gap within grades. However, it will fail to address the fact that women still experience vertical segregation when it comes to the filling of senior lectureships and chairs. The use of the average for all academic staff highlights this gender imbalance. Combine this with an analysis of the distribution of posts within different grades by gender and there is a powerful factual basis from which actions can be taken to reduce the overall gender pay gap.

Michael Somerton

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