With most universities having just published their gender equality schemes, evidence to suggest that female staff are paid less than males was bound to be headline news ("Pay bias persists as change is 'too slow'", May 11). And yet it tells only a partial story.
The crude comparison of a single average salary for males with a single average salary for females is, at best, misleading. Salaries are determined by a variety of factors, such as qualifications, experience and type of job. Only when we compare like with like and still find differences in salaries between men and women can we genuinely claim that pay is unequal.
Preliminary analysis undertaken at Nottingham University highlights the issue's complexity. For example, we have identified potential gender-based inequalities in pay for academic and administrative staff but not for technical, manual or contract research staff. In the case of academics, the problem relates primarily to professorial pay and is of the order of 3 per cent. In the case of administrators, the differential is a little more than 3 per cent, but in the lower grades females tend to be paid more than males.
The calculations undertaken by the University and College Union misrepresent a complex problem and potentially divert attention from more serious aspects of gender equality. One reason why large differences are observed in simple comparisons of male and female pay is that men dominate senior roles while women are most heavily represented in junior roles. The real challenge is creating conditions that enable women to realise their potential and advance to senior roles. This requires careful analysis, informed policy responses and, most importantly, a real commitment to change organisational cultures and individual expectations.
Chair of the Gender Advisory Group
Pro vice-chancellor staffing
Director of HR, Nottingham University Business School