Women academics are suffering from the "double whammy" of gross ageism as well as institutionalised sexism, Natfhe said this week.
Research published by Natfhe on the eve of its Blackpool conference found that women over 55 are barely likely to survive in academe, writes Phil Baty. Just nine higher education institutions employ women over 55 as senior lecturers, Natfhe said, compared with more than 100 that employ men of the same age.
Women who do survive as senior lecturers over 55 are paid less on average than men in 67 per cent of institutions, the research found. The union named and shamed Napier University, claiming that older female staff are paid little more than two-thirds of the salary it pays to men in the same age bracket.
The research, commissioned from the Higher Education Statistics Agency to mark the 30th anniversary of the equal pay legislation, suggested that the legislation has been insufficient to redress the imbalance.
Natfhe said that women in their early 40s had become extremely vulnerable. Despite starting their careers on the same salary, by the time women and men reach their late 20s, pay has already started to diverge. Men in their late 20s are paid more than women of the same age in 61 per cent of institutions. At City University, Natfhe said, women in their late 20s are paid 16 per cent less than men.
Natfhe's research came as the Association of University Teachers published figures that show that the gender pay gap in universities is actually widening.
The AUT said that men now earn on average 18 per cent more than women, compared with 17 per cent in 1997-98. "The new agreements to deal with this scandal have arrived not a moment to soon," said union general secretary David Triesman.
The AUT named and shamed institutions where the gap is much wider. For full-time permanent academic staff, for example, male lecturers at the University of London's Wye College earn 34 per cent more than female colleagues.
Male senior lecturers at the University of Wales's College of Medicine earn 29 per cent more than females, and male professors at Stirling University earn 24 per cent more than females.
At London Guildhall University, there was a 43 per cent pay gap between the sexes among junior researchers on fixed-term contracts.