Gender Pay Gap Persists in Higher Education Administration, Study Shows

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Despite comprising roughly half of all leadership positions in higher education, female administrators earn significantly less than their male counterparts, according to a new study by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR).

The gender pay gap among higher education administrators is 20 cents — or 80 cents to the dollar — not much lower than the 21-cent pay gap that exists for all U.S. full-time workers.

CUPA-HR’s study shows that despite the fact that salaries for all higher education administrators have risen over the last 15 years, the gender pay gap has remained consistent. In 2001, female administrators made 77 cents for every dollar earned by men in similar positions. Although the gap appeared to be narrowing steadily before 2009, the Recession “may have halted any further progress,” the authors of the study concluded. While all administrative salaries stagnated between 2009 and 2011, salaries for women failed to recover at the same rate as those of their male counterparts.

The difference in pay can vary widely based on factors like seniority and title. For instance, women actually earned more than men in three of the 15 positions included in the study: chief facilities officer, chief information officer, and chief officer of student affairs. This may be indicative of schools making an effort to recruit and retain women in those positions where they are most underrepresented, according to authors of the study.

The pay gap tended to decrease for women in positions typically held by men, such as chief facilities officer, and increase for female administrators in positions most commonly occupied by women, such as head of human resources. The most significant disparity, however, was for chief financial officers; women make up 40 percent of these positions but make only 77 cents to the dollar earned by their male counterparts.

The gap narrows the most for women in top executive positions, where they tend to earn more than 90 cents to every dollar earned by men; however, few women occupy these top-level, high-earning leadership positions. In fact, according to the study, “the representation of [women] decreases as median salary increases.”

Interestingly, the gap does narrow as a woman’s seniority increases, but only up to 17 years. After this point, the salary difference between men and women rises, which aligns with a salary disparity for older women nationally.

According to the study’s authors, these findings show that equal representation in administrative positions is not enough to guarantee true equality. They recommend institutions review the ratio of women to men in top leadership positions, as well as possible discrepancies in salary in all administrative offices, before deciding on a plan of action. “Recognition of inequity isn’t enough,” the study states. “The gender gap isn’t going away on its own.”