Women in university leadership are paid up to 11.4 per cent less than men in equivalent jobs, a major new study says.
Female vice-chancellors and principals earn 5.4 per cent less on average than male peers, while the pay gap rises to 10 per cent when deputy and pro vice-chancellors, registrars and chief operating officers are considered, says the joint report by employers and trade unions in higher education, published on 16 July.
The pay gap for heads of schools or departments is also significant, ranging from 5.3 per cent for centres with 51 to 100 staff to 11.4 per cent for centres with 50 or fewer staff, says the report by the New Joint Negotiating Committee for Higher Education Staff (JNCHES) Working Group on Gender Pay, which was set up as part of the 2014-15 national pay agreement for universities.
At larger departments or schools with more than 100 staff, the pay gap for heads stands at 8.6 per cent, while the professorial pay gap for the whole sector is 5.1 per cent, it adds.
However, the group found that there are far fewer significant pay gaps among rank-and-file academics. There is no pay gap at lecturer or junior research assistant level and when other equivalent academic roles are compared, such as senior and principal lecturers, women earn between 1.6 per cent and 2.6 per cent less than men, it says.
The gender pay gap in professional services is generally well below 5 per cent, it adds.
Despite the persistent pay gap at the top of universities, the report says that the overall pay deficit has closed significantly since a national pay framework was introduced between 2004 and 2006, falling from 11.1 per cent in 2004-05 to 3.6 per cent in 2013-14.
The retirement of highly paid male employees and the higher number of female graduates over this period may also account for some of the shrinking of the pay gap, the report says.
The report also details how five unnamed universities have tackled the pay gap by supporting the careers of female academics. One large pre-92 university had created a £300,000 annual fund to provide extra help for academic staff returning from extended maternity or caring leave, for instance.
Nick Petford, vice-chancellor of the University of Northampton, chair of the working group, which included representatives from five trade unions, the Universities and Colleges Employers’ Association and the Equality Challenge Unit, said that there were some “striking initiatives” to close the gender pay gap and urged institutions to evaluate their effectiveness over time.