Substantive Issues in the CCSW Report
In discussions with the Chairs of the Chancellor's Committee on the Status of Women (CCSW) and the Senate Committee on Equal Opporutnity (EQ), General University Policy (GUP) expressed the view that aggregate figures on numbers of women faculty and on differential salaries between men and women faculty, may indicate a prima facie cause for concern. But such statistics can be misleading if they are taken to suggest that the solution to such problems is simply to hire more women faculty, or to implement an across-the-board salary equalization policy. Attempting to remedy the symptoms can result in only a short-term improvement, in the absence of attention to the underlying causes of such inequalities. For example, were the campus to institute an immediate hiring initiative to bring in 50 new women faculty across campus, and to increase the salaries of all women faculty by 20%, without addressing these underlying factors, we have no doubt that within a very few years new patterns of inequality would emerge.
For this reason, we invited the Chairs of CCSW and EQ to work with us in thinking about what some of these underlying causes might be. On a campus where women are statistically over-represented as a group on major university committees and in key administrative positions, the source of these problems cannot simply be that they are not "on the agenda" or have not received strong enough advocacy, and while there might be pockets of antipathy or resistance to gender equity concerns, by and large this is not where the problems reside, in our view. A fair assessment of the problem would have to acknowledge the much that is being done, and why success is often elusive.
In our subsequent, fruitful discussion, several potential factors were discussed. Attention at this level, we believe, is more likely to remedy the underlying causes of persistent inequities on campus; conversely, neglecting such factors will make any course of intervention less likely to succeed in the long run.
1. One possibility is that the criteria by which merit is evaluated themselves have a biasing effect, even when they are applied evenhandedly. For example (speaking hypothetically) if women faculty tended to put more effort into their teaching than to their research, a system that rewards research more than teaching would work to their detriment. Or perhaps women (again speaking hypothetically) might tend to produce more co-authored pieces, in an environment that rewards single-authored works more highly. Perhaps women (again speaking hypothetically) have a higher service load, in a system that generally does not reward that as highly as performance in the other areas. In such scenarios, a perfectly objective application of the criteria would produce a systematic gender difference. This may or may not be a criticism of such criteria; but it is a cause for concern if they inadvertently yield persistent, overall salary differences between men and women.
2. Another possibility is that the non-merit review sources of salary difference (having more competitive offers and hence a higher salary upon entry, negotiating more vigorously, obtaining outside offers that a unit must match to keep faculty, and so on) exacerbate patterns of inequality. Clearly such factors may not reflect absolute differences in ability or performance, but may reflect differences in professional values, connections with "old boy" networks inside or outside the university, or simple ambition and persistence where maximizing salary is concerned. Any administrator knows that the beneficiaries of such efforts are not always one's best or most valuable faculty. In this instance, it may be that women benefit less from such a system of negotiation and leverage-seeking, differences in ability or performance notwithstanding.
3. Another possibility is that patterns of voluntary faculty departures represent a greater drain on the numbers of women (and other underrepresented groups). We would like to see campus data on this, and suggest that "exit interviews" for those who choose to leave might reveal remediable factors that led to their decisions.
4. We would like to see clearer data on the performance of the university in areas where the supply of women faculty is relatively small. What are the barriers to doing better in these areas? Where are these women choosing to go? What factors led to their decisions, and which ones can be changed or, if not changeable, compensated for?
5. When hiring decisions are made, are criteria invoked (implicitly or explicitly) that are not in the formal job description, but which influence the outcome ("I went to grad school with this candidate's professor, and I trust his judgment in recommending him") in ways that perpetuate gendered patterns of advantage and disadvantage? Similar factors might also influence recruitment for such positions.
6. Because hiring and salary decisions are made in a decentralized framework, it is not easy for the campus to influence such decisions. The campus should offer positive incentives rather than negative consequences to encourage and to support different hiring, promotion, and salary patterns.
7. Finally, are there other aspects of the campus climate or community that are hurting on the side of hiring and retention, or that are simply making life more difficult for women faculty on this campus? As important as salary equity is, it is not the only factor affecting the quality of professional and personal life. The campus is moving ahead with new plans to expand childcare, for example. What else can be done?
We do not know whether these factors, or similar factors, are at the source of the patterns CCSW is pointing out. But we strongly suspect that many of the persistent patterns of difference in hiring and salary are the inadvertent effects of policies and practices that may not appear biased on their face, but which produce such outcomes by how they operate in practice. There is yet another level of questions, about what to do about them if they are factors; some are tightly entwined with the way this university, or many universities, operate. Indeed, some may not be changeable without sacrificing other important values. But we certainly believe that they cannot go unquestioned or unexamined. The problem is that not all differences, even documented patterns of difference, necessarily reflect inequities. The difficult and complex question is determining when such differences are the result of inequities that can and should be remedied, and when they may be the result of other factors (such as legitimate merit or market considerations).
Submitted March 28, 2000
GENERAL UNIVERSITY POLICY COMMITTEE
Steve Seitz, Chair