We must see the gap to mind it

Call for earnings to be made public to help repair gender rift in salaries. Jack Grove reports

August 2, 2012

Academics should be able to find out how much their colleagues are paid to help reverse the growing pay gap between men and women.

That is the view of Geraldine Healy, professor of employment relations at Queen Mary, University of London, after a study revealed that pay inequality had worsened at UK universities.

Men were paid £6,680 more than women in 2010-11 when mean average salaries for permanent academic staff members were compared - £51,300 against £44,090 - up from a £5,690 gap seven years earlier, according to a report by the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

The biggest gap in pay was found in medicine and dentistry, where women's average median salary was £8,540 lower than men's - £44,020 compared with £52,560 - with pay differences of more than £8,000 also apparent in mathematics and physical sciences departments.

Several factors were preventing women from gaining promotion and moving up the pay scales, said Professor Healy, director of the Centre for Research in Equality and Diversity.

Women were more likely to work part-time as they generally took on the majority of caring responsibilities at home, limiting their ability to undertake research, she said.

"It may be difficult to do research in the time available, or it may be undertaken over and above their contractual hours and effectively be an unpaid work activity," Professor Healy said.

"It is often harder for women on atypical contracts to go to conferences where work is recognised and networks are built - it's not impossible but the barriers are higher."

But secrecy over pay within universities was also a key reason for the pay inequality, particularly among the professoriate, where salaries are not subject to national pay scales, Professor Healy argued.

"If you can make pay more transparent and also publicise the opportunities for promotion, you would see a reduction in pay inequality," she said. "They do it in Norway, so why not here?"

It follows the success of Liz Schafer, professor of drama and theatre studies at Royal Holloway, University of London, who won an employment tribunal last year. She brought the action after discovering that she had been paid thousands of pounds less than her male peers.

But the report, Staff Employed at Hefce-funded HEIs, also cited significant progress in recruiting women to senior positions. It found that 21 per cent of all professors were women in 2010-11 - up from 20 per cent in 2008-09, which itself was double the 10 per cent rate in 1995-96.

jack.grove@tsleducation.com.

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