Organization of Women Faculty responds to University’s pay equity study

Catherine Kim, Assistant Campus Editor

Northwestern’s Organization of Women Faculty proposed solutions to achieving pay equity among faculty, which included regularly bringing in outside parties to analyze the pay system and consistently monitor it, the OWF announced in a statement last week.

The statement — released June 2 — was a response to the Office of the Provost’s 2016 Northwestern Faculty Salary Equity Study and Faculty Compensation Survey. OWF co-chair and political science Prof. Karen Alter said Lindsay Chase-Lansdale, associate provost for faculty, has received the statement and will review it.

OWF co-chair and religion studies Prof. Cristina Traina said she found the statistics of the University’s inequality “concerning.” According to the statement, the study found an aggregated 4.7 percent gap “favoring male full professors.” Women faculty also spend more time in the rank of associate professor before becoming a full professor, the statement said.

“Women faculty have much less confidence that Northwestern is a hospitable place, regardless of gender or background variation that one may have, than men are,” Traina said. “It’s very important for the University to get at the causes that lie behind this impression.”

As part of OWF’s response, the statement included four different actions the University could take to achieve equitable pay: finalizing and responding to the Preliminary Report II on Salary Equity and Faculty Compensation, creating a new approach to the setting and assessment of teaching-track salaries, addressing structural factors that contribute to inequity and commissioning the next generation pay equity study.

Traina said one of the most important points OWF’s members have made is the need for bring outside sources, such as consultants, to occasionally examine the pay system. She said even institutions that believe they have comprehensive and fair pay systems often find they have “blind spots” when bringing in consultants.

Alter said it is important to acknowledge the improvement of the pay equity system is an “ongoing process” that has to be continuously monitored.

“If you’re not actively monitoring it … the biases that create pay inequity in the first place, they return,” she said. “They needed to be actively counteracted by monitoring.”

Regardless of the results of the study or survey, Traina said it is a positive step forward because of its change in methodology and thoroughness.

“This is the best survey they have ever done, and I want to emphasize Lindsay Chase-Lansdale put together a panel of extremely capable people with a lot of statistical know-how to create a more fine-grained careful study than has been done,” Traina said.

Alter said the next step is to give the Office of the Provost time to respond to OWF’s statement and examine the implications of the solutions. However, she said it is important to keep administrators under pressure and let them “know that they are being watched.”

Traina said OWF hopes to continue working with the Office of the Provost to reach equitable pay because it is a “group effort.”

“We’re wanting to be collaborators and help in this process of monitoring salary equity and accomplishing salary equity,” Traina said. “It takes all of us together.”

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