Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Bias Against Your Mom, Your Wife, Your Sisters, Your Daughters, Your Friends, Your Teachers, Your Researchers, Your Professors

My son called me yesterday from college in another state to say he was thinking about going into teaching. His girlfriend an education major made the suggestion to him that he apply his interests and abilities in art to teaching others. My daughters also have, from time to time, expressed an interest in a profession in the classroom and in research. This makes an academic parent like me rather proud to hear.

But if these young people do become teachers, instructors, researchers, or professors, then how well will they be compensated for their very important work? And will my son, because he's male, have an easier time getting work and good pay than his girlfriend will, because she's female? Will the teacher man make more than his teacher sisters, because of the gender gap?

It seems in the Academy, in the U.S. anyway, we still haven't gotten very far. I mean we haven't gotten very far from Aristotle's elitist academy for "pure" humans, who must be males and who have to be males of the right race and class, of course.

There's evidence this morning. Reporter Kate Moser of the Chronicle of Higher Education publishes an article entitled "Rutgers U. Weighs Complaints of Bias Against Women in Political Science." Here's the lead:
Female faculty members and graduate students in Rutgers University's political-science department feel unfairly compensated and shut out of leadership positions by their male counterparts, says an internal university report obtained by The Chronicle. In at least one case, a woman has been afraid to complain about sexual harassment because of worries about retaliation.
Moser reports many of the shocking details in this specific Rutgers case. And she goes on to remind us of the general picture in the U.S.:
Across disciplines, female faculty members continue to lag behind men in pay, particularly at doctoral universities, where their average salaries are 78.1 percent of their male colleagues', according to the most recent study on gender equity in the professoriate, which was conducted in 2006 by the American Association of University Professors (The Chronicle, November 3, 2006).
So, I went back and read that report, from two years ago, and see that then the study determined how back in November 2006 "the overall numbers show[ed] there hasn't been that much progress, even if you look at the last 30 years." The numbers, just in terms of the salary gap then, were as follows:

I think we can see what must change. I just wonder how it will change. It's been 45 years since the U.S. government passed the The Equal Pay Act. That's four and a half decades, nearly half a century, with little enforcement of the law it seems. It's the spirit of the law, too, that's broken, isn't it? To fix something like this requires more than government; it requires some audacious hope and change. So I do like the presidential candidate who has a stake in the issue of equal pay for my daughters and son: the presidential candidate who publicly pledges that he's committed to creating equal opportunities for his daughters. And I think muckraking reports such as Kate Moser's today are important.

What other possibilities do we have for seeing the next generation have more equality than we do?


Nathan Stitt said...

My wife and I both teach. She teaches elementary and I teach high school. We both have master's degrees and she makes more money than I do. She started teaching 8 years ago and I started teaching this year. The primary reason she earns more is because of her seniority from teaching for a while. She also works in a school district that pays more than the one where I work, so I will never make more than her unless I change jobs and become an administrator or something.

I've found that salaries in education seem pretty fair and are based mostly on years spent teaching and whether a school district is wealthy or poor. I'm not really sure how it is in higher education, but I'd assume that the discrepancies you report are mostly at that level.

J. K. Gayle said...

Appreciate your good report, Nathan. Thanks also for being in education, both you and your spouse! No doubt you don't get paid enough for all you do, but glad to know that gender-based pay inequality doesn't seem to affect your family. (Wish we could say the same for our nation. For all industries averaged, we've not improved since last year--at least in the first quarter, the report was that a woman in America still drew only 77% of a man's salary. Obama's not making this a campaign issue for nothing.)

J. K. Gayle said...

Last year? Sexism: A Multiple Choice (Quiz) Remember how things looked?