Professor gender pay gap greater at Dartmouth than at peer institutions

Though experience, rank and department factor in, male professors earn over $30,000 more per year than female professors.

by Andrew Sasser | 7/2/21 5:05am

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The College maintains that the gap is not "statistically significant."

by Angelina Scarlotta / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

Among its peer institutions, Dartmouth has one of the largest pay gaps between male and female professors, according to data from the Office of Institutional Research and the American Association of University professors. During the 2020-2021 academic year, male professors made an average salary of $218,198, compared to only $184,367 for female professors, a pay discrepancy of $33,831.

Other peer institutions have much smaller gaps in professor compensation. For example, Harvard University has a gender pay gap of $12,805 between male and female professors. Yale University has a pay gap of $16,631.

College spokesperson Diana Lawrence wrote that Dartmouth is committed to “fair and equitable compensation” across the institution and that it conducts pay equity research regularly. According to Lawrence, a recent study Dartmouth commissioned found that the gap in compensation could be attributed to differences in “experience, rank and field of study” for both tenure and non-tenure eligible faculty. 

According to sociology professor Kristin Smith, the gender pay gap in academia and other professions started with differences in education and job experience between women and men. However, she added that as more women have “invested” in their education and fewer women are leaving the workforce, other factors like industry and occupation type have larger impacts on the existence of gender pay gaps.

“For example, lots of women are entering into medicine as a profession, but many pursue different types of medicine,” Smith said. “Typically, there are more men who are surgeons, whereas more women are family practice doctors.”

History professor Jennifer Miller said that the pay gap present in academia is not “surprising,” given that there tends to be less representation of women in higher paying fields in academia. For example, she mentioned that women are typically less represented in academic fields like computer science that pay more than fields like humanities or the arts.

“There is a lot of historical work that shows once an occupation becomes perceived as feminized, that compensation in those fields decreases,” Miller said. “For example, women used to be very involved in coding, but now coding is more male-dominated, and the compensation in the field has also increased accordingly.”

Smith added that other variables could impact the pay gap, including how long a professor has been working at an institution and whether or not a professor has received tenure in their department. She added that in academia, there are fewer women who are full-time professors, as many of them are much younger than their male counterparts. 

According to Smith, women did not attain PhDs at an equal rate to men until recently, so many women in academia may not have been in faculty positions for long enough to achieve tenure.

Miller added that at a recent college faculty meeting, there was a presentation that evaluated the differences in compensation between male and female professors at Dartmouth. She added that she found it “disconcerting” that the presenter explained that, when controlling for tenure status, rank and academic department, the pay gap was not statistically significant.

“As a history professor, I think it’s very problematic to explain it away like this, as our department is one of the lowest-paid and we have a lot of female faculty,” Miller said. “You can’t just say that some of you are just less valuable than the rest, and that’s life.”

In terms of alleviating the pay gap both at Dartmouth and in academia in general, Smith said that it may help to hire older and more experienced female professors. She added that colleges and universities like Dartmouth should look into increasing the pay in some of the lower-paying fields, both to close the gap and to retain younger female faculty.

Similarly, Miller said that colleges like Dartmouth should feel less obligated to follow market forces when deciding on compensation for certain fields. She also added that the College should offer more support to faculty that are caregivers, as they are more often female professors.

“COVID took a massive toll on faculty members that were caring for young children, and many of those faculty members are women,” Miller said. “Dartmouth needs to think critically about its policies for faculty — such as the tenure — in order to ensure that caregiving professors are not burdened.”

Correction appended (5:15 p.m., July 14, 2021): A previous version of this article omitted the source of the faculty salary data, the Office of Institutional Research and the American Association of University Professors. The article has been updated to include this information and a link. 

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