University of Essex hikes salaries for female professors to eliminate pay gap

Radical action to erase disparity comes as new figures show lingering gender pay deficit across UK universities

June 2, 2016
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Leaping ahead: men on full-time contracts earn 11 per cent more than women

A UK university is giving its female professors a one-off salary hike to wipe out a gender pay gap as new figures show persistent salary disparities between the sexes across the country.

In what is believed to be a sector first, the University of Essex will move female professors up three newly created pay levels – which will, in effect, lift their average salaries to the same level as male chairs.

Anthony Forster, Essex’s vice-chancellor, said that the move was motivated by “impatience” after less radical institution-wide policies dedicated to improving women’s promotion chances had failed to close its pay gap at professorial level.

It comes as a new analysis of official pay data by Times Higher Education shows that women on full-time academic contracts in the UK are paid about 11 per cent less than men on average.

When all full-time academic staff in the UK are considered, women are paid an average of £45,704 and men £51,333 – a difference of £5,629, according to data collected by the Higher Education Statistics Agency for 2014-15.

That represents a fall in the overall pay gap for full-time salaries for men and women, which was 11.3 per cent in 2013-14, and 14.1 per cent in 2005-06, according to figures collected by the University and College Union at the time.

However, Sally Hunt, the UCU’s general secretary, said that this represented “little progress”, and the issue was highlighted by many union members during last week’s two-day strike over pay.

The Universities and Colleges Employers Association said that its ongoing joint work with trade unions on equal pay showed that there was a “shared commitment” between employers and unions “to address these issues”.

It added that the latest Office for National Statistics data, which include part-time staff, show that the gender pay gap in higher education fell by 1.3 percentage points to 14.7 per cent last year, with the gap for university teachers down from 9.3 per cent to 9.1 per cent.

THE’s analysis of Hesa data showed that nationally there was a persistent, if smaller, pay gap within the professoriate, with women paid 5.8 per cent less on average than men – £74,682 vs £79,252 – a difference of £4,570. Essex’s gap is just 3.1 per cent (£2,439), which puts it in the bottom fifth for professorial pay gaps.

Queen’s University Belfast had the largest pay gap for professors, with female chairs paid £11,257 less on average than male ones, a 14 per cent difference.

A Queen’s spokeswoman said that the institution had identified the gap at professorial level and had taken “immediate steps to address this”.

She added that Queen’s was one of the first universities to receive a silver institutional Athena SWAN award, in 2007, and held two gold and eight silver departmental awards, all attesting to its “absolute commitment that all female and male academics are treated equitably in every aspect of university life”.

King’s College London had the biggest gender pay gap of any large university when all kinds of academic staff are considered, with women paid £10,061 (17.7 per cent) less than men on average.

The gap reflected the fact that there are fewer women than men in the most highly paid positions – primarily clinical and professorial roles – rather than a difference in salaries for men and women doing equal work, said a spokesman for King’s, who added that it had introduced an institution-wide action plan on equal pay.

Gender pay gap: professors

Institution Average salary, women (£) Average salary, men (£) Difference (£) % Difference
Queen’s University Belfast 68,953 80,210 11,257 14.03
Swansea University 65,281 74,024 8,743 11.81
Aston University 80,329 89,458 9,129 10.20
Cardiff University 76,194 84,537 8,343 9.87
University of Liverpool 74,531 82,562 8,031 9.73
University of York 70,432 77,576 7,144 9.21
Anglia Ruskin University 60,548 66,597 6,049 9.08
City University London 88,426 97,186 8,760 9.01
Royal Holloway, University of London 70,990 78,005 7,015 8.99
University of Aberdeen 73,489 80,452 6,963 8.65

Gender pay gap: all academic staff

Institution Average salary, women (£) Average salary, men (£) Difference (£) % Difference
King’s College London 46,661 56,722 10,061 17.74
University of Aberdeen 44,293 53,776 9,483 17.63
City University London 55,790 67,502 11,712 17.35
University of Leicester 45,021 54,167 9,146 16.88
Bangor University 41,446 49,531 8,085 16.32
Swansea University 40,562 48,410 7,848 16.21
Cardiff University 45,639 54,419 8,780 16.13
University of Cambridge 40,687 48,514 7,827 16.13
University of Glasgow 45,060 53,383 8,323 15.59
University of Warwick 48,341 57,170 8,829 15.44

Note: Figures show average salaries for full-time staff for 2014-15 and exclude small and specialist institutions.
Source: Higher Education Statistics Agency


Print headline: Essex moves its female professors up the earnings ladder to eliminate gender pay gap

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Reader's comments (2)

The University of Cambridge (and no doubt most other UK universities) refuses to admit that most of their staff are underpaid, and, because they have decided the money is not there for any form of equitable treatment, penalise those who challenge a system designed to reward cronyism and arse licking.
Well done Essex, but it's disgraceful that women are still having to fight for equal pay over 40 years after it became a legal requirement.