‘Striking’ inequalities in higher education fuel gender pay gap

The UK’s female academics are paid £6,146 less on average than men, with lack of women in leadership and management roles a factor, says new report

November 5, 2015

Twice as many male academics as female scholars earn more than £50,000 a year, new figures on academia’s gender pay gap show.

Some 37,425 male academics are paid at least £50,000, compared with just 17,415 female academics – a ratio of more than two to one, according a new analysis of 2013-14 data by the Equality Challenge Unit.

It means that despite making up 55.4 per cent of the workforce, 68.2 per cent of higher earners in academia are men, says the ECU’s Equality in Higher Education: Statistical Report 2015, due to be published on 9 November. Put another way, one in five female academics earns above £50,000, while one in three men does so, it adds.

Similar disparities exist for professional and support staff, with 3.9 per cent of women paid more than £50,000 compared with 7.9 per cent of men.

Other inequalities also exist for female academics; they are less likely to have a permanent post and more likely to be part-time or employed on a teaching-only contract, the report says.

Only one in five vice-chancellors is a woman, a proportion that improves slightly to one in three for deputy and pro vice-chancellors, it adds. But for professors, the percentage falls back again, with women making up just 22.4 per cent of the cohort.

The lack of women in senior posts, allied with the disparities on contract type, are likely to explain why female academics in the UK are paid £6,146 less on average than men, representing a gap of 13.6 per cent, said the report’s author Stephanie Neave, the ECU’s research and data manager. She called the inequalities “striking”.

“The gender pay gap is an indicator of a whole range of under-representation going on across the sector,” said Ms Neave.

That gender pay gap for academics is larger for English universities outside London, rising to a median 15.7 per cent, or £7,053, the ECU report finds. In the capital, the same median gender gap is 9.8 per cent, or £4,435. For professional and support staff the pay gap is smaller, at a median of 7.4 per cent, or £2,492, in London and 5.7 per cent, or £1,429, elsewhere.

Similar gender pay gaps also exist for professional services staff – a factor that has prompted the ECU to bring these staff under the remit of the Athena SWAN gender equality charter scheme, explained Gemma Tracey, senior policy adviser at the ECU.

The Athena SWAN scheme began 10 years ago to tackle a lack of female academics in science, technology, engineering and maths departments and now has 132 institutional members.

“We’ve now relaunched Athena SWAN so that it goes beyond STEM academics,” said Ms Tracey. “Institutions will also have to state explicitly what they are doing to tackle any gender pay gap,” she added.

The new ECU report, which analysed higher education staff by age, ethnicity, disability and, for the first time, sexual orientation, religion and gender identity, showed that there are 86,590 female academics in the UK sector, an increase of 26,445 on 2003-04.

The number of men has risen at a slightly slower rate, meaning women now constitute 44.6 per cent of academics compared with 40 per cent 10 years earlier.


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