Ever wonder why there remains a significant and persistent pay gap between men and women in academia? Female Science Professor provides a case study from a recent discussion about her salary compression with an administrator:
For some reason a certain administrator recently told me that, although I had had (in his opinion) “a spectacular year” in terms of publications, grants, students graduated, teaching, service, honors etc., he was going to allocate what few extra resources he had at his discretion to some of the assistant professors. He said his decision is not based on “merit” but on what he thinks is fair.
OK, that’s fine.. sort of. I am not going to argue that I deserve more of these scarce resources than my hard-working junior colleagues, and my morale is not crushed by this turn of events. My so-called “spectacular” year was made possible in part by the fact that I am a mid-career professor with an established research group that is functioning well. My younger colleagues are still building their research programs, and the contents of their annual reports should therefore by viewed in this context, rather than by a strict comparison of numbers of publications or grants etc.
And yet, there is still a very large difference between my salary and that of a peer (male) colleague whose higher salary is not based on the fact that he is more productive than I am (because he is not). He was hired as a full professor and negotiated a higher salary than what his nearest peer colleague (that’s me) was making. My initially low salary has of course increased over the years, but not at a rate that would put me at the same level as this colleague anytime soon, if ever.
I told the aforementioned administrator that I understood and even supported his plan to help some of the assistant professors, but I also said that I didn’t want my situation to fall entirely off the radar screen in future years, as I saw it as an equity issue. One could argue that my colleague is paid “too much” and that my salary is more appropriate for my position and job, but that still leaves me as a good example of a woman paid ~85% of what a man makes for the same job.
The aforementioned administrator replied that I should have done a better job negotiating my salary when I was first hired.
Ah yes, maybe I should have. And maybe the assistant professors who need an economic boost to bring their salaries in line with other young colleagues should have done the same thing or else they also would not now be in such dire need of assistance.
But for some reason, my poor negotiating skills are relevant here, not theirs.
I was OK with the plan until the administrator made this gratuitous swipe at the circumstances of my hiring more than a dozen years ago with a different department chair and in a situation involving a 2-person hire.
Why did he think it was reasonable to criticize my negotiating skills and not those of my younger colleagues? (FYI, these younger colleagues are all men). He was telling me that I should just accept my salary situation relative to my peers but he’s going to help these other colleagues who are experiencing salary compression for the exact same reason that I am??
FSP, don’t you get it? They are always deserving of more. You are barely deserving of what you have, because somewhere, sometime you made a mistake in managing your career. They will always have a friend looking out for them in the Dean’s office, baking them cookies and pouring milk for them, whereas you (and the rest of us on the XX team) never will. That’s how it works!
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