The gender pay gap and academia

This isn’t just about academia. This isn’t just about science. A recent report published for Bloomberg Business Week shows the latest American Census Bureau figures and the stark disparity in pay between genders that still exists, across the board. In 505 out of the 525 occupations covered, the median earning of women trailed behind their male counterparts.

The article covers many careers; from secretaries (women make 87 cents for every $1 earned by men) to flight attendants (89 cents for every $1) to doctors (63 cents for every $1). There is no mention if all this data is taken on a year-by-year basis or time averaged over entire careers; one could possibly understand an apparent lower earning for women if earnings were averaged out to include career breaks to care for children. But even this point is unlikely to account for much of the pay disparity – consider one comment from the article; “The starting-salary disparity between male and female physicians…”

I care about this because it is discrimination. Because I work as hard as any man. Because in my personal and professional life I take equal share of any work that needs to be done. Because women have proved time and time again that they deserve this equality.

But if you want even more reason to care return back to the Bloomberg article – female university professors earn 80 cents for every $1 their male counterparts earn. And not only are they less well off financially, they are less likely to make it to these professorial slots; despite women making up 57% of undergraduate students and 59% of graduate students only 28% of full-time university professors are female. (All figures from the article linked above).

Academia sells itself to the next generation as progressive, inclusive and flexible. If its citizens, who are pushing forwards the boundaries of knowledge, cannot push past old inequalities who else will? If a system that rewards hard work with a degree of autonomy and flexible work conditions does not allow for balancing families and careers than how can we expect any other career to? We should be leading the way, so let’s shout this message from the roof tops. Help others to judge women for their worth, but also to encourage women to ask for their worth. Because tomorrow I, and millions of other women, are going to do kick ass science – and being XX or XY has nothing to do with that.


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