USF professors’ field of study, not their gender, determines how much money they make.
Female professors’ salaries at USF tend to be about 10 percent lower than those of their male counterparts, according to research by the American Association of University Professors. This discrepancy, however, may not stem from gender bias.
In reality, gender is not an exclusively determining factor of professor salary rates, Senior Vice Provost Dwayne Smith said. Important aspects determining a professor’s starting salary include market factors and the field in which a person works.
“The more women you have in a profession, the lower the salary typically tends to be,” Smith said. “That’s because salaries tend to be higher in several fields — your science fields are one of the big ones, and right now the money is in business.”
A national study conducted by Oklahoma State University examined USF salaries by gender. In higher-paid fields such as biology, chemistry, physics, engineering and business, females make up 29, 14, 12, 23 and 12 percent of professors, respectively. The national average salary for these fields is $96,800.
In contrast, relatively low-paid fields such as anthropology, communication disorders, English, foreign languages and education hold higher percentages of female faculty — 63, 69, 54, 61 and 57 percent respectively — and a lower average salary of $69,800.
According to the study, women tend to choose lower-paid disciplines than men.
“You’ve got to control for the variables of how long a professor has been in the job, and certainly among the majors,” mass communications professor Dan Bagley said. “For example, engineering will be heavily weighted toward men on the faculty and will obviously pay more than in arts and sciences.”
At USF, the starting salary for professors in scientific departments is higher than in other departments regardless of gender, Smith said. Experience and productivity are also key factors affecting salary.
“What we pay real close attention to are starting salaries,” he said. “We try to make a close determination that starting salaries for the same position are exactly the same. But sometimes you can have tweaks there.
“For example, a person may come in with one or two years more experience, or a person may come in and they’re being hotly pursued by other places, so you have to shell out a little bit more to get that person.”
Depending on the field, however, experience may not dictate which professors make more than others, Smith said.
“There are some people coming in some business fields right now who are brand-new walking in the door and they’re making more on a nine-month salary than some of the chairs in arts and sciences are making with a 12-month salary,” he said.
Some faculty members believe the University has exceeded its obligation to provide equal opportunities for both genders.
USF has one of the highest percentages of female professors at an American university, Smith said, and USF has more women on its faculty than are normally found in research institutions.
Muller agreed that USF has done a “really amazing job” in recruiting female professors.
Females and female minorities in particular have been highly sought after in the mass communications department, Bagley said.
“Based off of the offers that I have seen go out for mass communications, if there’s any bias at all, there isn’t much,” he said.
Many still argue, though, that women are discriminated against. Smith said some women are arguing that the raw numbers showing females making less than males proves discrimination.
To be fair, Smith said, men and women should consider all of the factors behind the numbers.
“What discrimination would be is if two people within the same discipline had essentially the same record and there was a salary differential that could not be explained by market factors,” he said.
It seems that a larger issue among university faculty — and not just women, Smith said — is the much greater discrepancy in salaries among different disciplines and fields.
“The one thing that I would strongly emphasize is that we’re very conscious about equity in this office and we do monitor salaries,” he said. “There are times when I have raised questions about salary differentials, and in some cases we’ve even had adjustments made. It’s not just a matter of abiding by the law; it’s because, as a principle, we strongly believe in it.”