Campus News

Gender equity study findings, methods discussed at University Council meeting

A discussion at the May 3 meeting of University Council provided additional information on a recent gender equity study that found no institution-wide practice or pattern of paying faculty members differently based on gender.

The university periodically conducts salary studies as part of its commitment to gender equity, and the 2015 study conducted by Florida-based Economic Research Services Group found that “across the university, on average, the female/male salary difference is not statistically significant at any rank.”

Shortly after joining UGA as provost in 2014, Pamela Whitten asked Michelle Garfield Cook, associate provost for institutional diversity, to lead an initiative to assess gender pay equity at UGA. Deans from across campus were asked to nominate faculty members to serve on an eight-member committee to develop a request for proposals from qualified third-party consultants. The eight-member faculty committee chaired by Cook selected ERS Group, which has more than 30 years of experience working with universities such as Stanford, Virginia Tech and the University of Kentucky.

The report was completed last year, and study author Mary Dunn Baker provided additional information this spring in response to questions from the Human Resources Committee of University Council regarding the study’s methodology and the inclusion of rank and tenure status in the analysis.

The addendum noted that the study used a statistical method known as multiple regression analysis, which the AAUP’s “Higher Education Salary Evaluation Kit” describes as the “gold standard” for compensation analysis. The technique allows the analyst to quantify any female/male salary differences after filtering out differences that are attributable to factors that legitimately impact salary, such as academic discipline, rank and tenure status, education level, work experience and administrative assignments.

Rank and tenure status undoubtedly impact faculty salaries, and most faculty salary studies include rank as an explanatory variable. Baker noted that their inclusion in the model enables “apples to apples” comparisons among similarly situated men and women.

Robert Toutkoushian, a professor in UGA’s Institute of Higher Education who has completed gender equity studies for faculty at the University of Minnesota, the University of Cincinnati, Dartmouth College and the University of Missouri, among others, reviewed the ERS study and noted that its methods were consistent with best practices in higher education and that its findings were adequately explained.

“I’ve been familiar with Dr. Baker’s work for the past 20 years, and her methods are industry-standard in higher education,” said Toutkoushian, who gave an overview of salary studies to the faculty committee in 2014 but was not asked to conduct the study to avoid a potential conflict of interest. “Salaries are directly tied to faculty rank, and rank is also a proxy for faculty productivity and accomplishments. If rank were taken out of the model, there would be no remaining measure of faculty productivity, so that variable has an important reason for being in the model.”

UGA has a long history of conducting gender equity studies. A 1990 study that did not distinguish between academic ranks in its analysis was followed by a 1993 report on the monitoring of salary equity that was authored by seven faculty members. The 1993 faculty report concluded that “rank and years in rank at the university are important variables for describing the distribution of salaries and must be considered in the modeling process.”

The university plans to continue to review faculty salaries on a regular basis, at least every five years, but Cook emphasized that the most recent study found no evidence of an institution-wide practice or pattern of paying similarly situated faculty members differently based on gender.

“The absence of institution-wide gender inequities in salary doesn’t preclude the occurrence of isolated incidents,” Cook said, “and I urge any faculty member with concerns about salary inequities to contact his or her department head, dean or the university’s Equal Opportunity Office.”