Salaries lag for women professors

Women are being hired more frequently as college and university professors, but they still last behind men in rank and salary, according to a recent study done by the Educational TEsting Service in Princeton, N.J.

Today, 24 percent of the full-time teaching faculty in higher education are women. In 1978, the average salary for a male professor was $19,313 but for a female professor it was $15,941 -- 17.5 percent lower.

This salary gap persists even when academic field, type of institution, and rank are taken into account. And the differences tend to increase over time and with increasing rank. For example, the salary difference at the level of assistant professor puts women 4 percent below their male colleagues, but 15 years after receiving their doctorates, women earn from 13 to 23 percent less than the men.

A variety of reasons for this gap have been offered. One may be that there are proportionately more women faculty in two-and four-year colleges than at the large research universities, where the highest salaries are found. High pay is also associated with fields like medicine, in which the proportion of women faculty is also low. But even when these variables are controlled, studies show that the salary differences persist.

Therefore, it seems likely that the cause of the problem is more fundamental and may be similar to the reasons given for the slower promotion of women faculty members. Some of the myths that may lead to lower salaries for academic women are:

* Married women faculty members don't need as much money, so it's all right to pay them less.

* Unmarried women faculty members don't need as much money, so it's all right to pay them less.

* Women faculty members earn less than men because they are not as well qualified.

To rebut these myths, strong social networks of women faculty have been recommended as a solution. A serious commitment to improving the status of women faculty first requires that the women not accept the myths for themselves.

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