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Considering the gender-based pay gap in academia with the UTFA president

Looking back on the UTFA’s fight against pay inequity over the past few years
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ANETTE XIA/THE VARSITY
ANETTE XIA/THE VARSITY

Across Canadian universities, women professors earn approximately 10 per cent less than men for the same work. Moreover, there is a pay gap of 10 per cent between racialized professors and non-racialized professors, indicating a more extreme pay gap for racialized women professors. 

While a substantial pay gap exists between heterosexual men and members of the LGBTQ+ community across various vocations, it has not received significant attention in academia, with most equity legislation centred on the pay gap between men and women. 

At U of T, the average salary of men professors was $185,050 in 2020, while the average salary of women professors was $164,250.

In an email to The Varsity, University of Toronto Faculty Association (UTFA) President Terezia Zorić shared the UTFA’s efforts to dismantle pay disparities at U of T.

Previous efforts

Zorić wrote, “Since at least 2016, [the] UTFA has actively worked towards achieving salary equity for its female-identifying members, and for members of other equity-seeking groups.” 

The UTFA has taken on a number of related initiatives, including analyzing salary data in academia and considering feedback from focus groups. 

In her email, Zorić discussed the administration’s decision, in April 2019, to increase the salary of tenure-stream women by only 1.3 per cent — an increase that the UTFA sees as insufficient. 

The administration explained that it had settled on this increase following the report from the Provostial Advisory Group on Faculty and Gender Pay Equity — a group U of T assembled in 2016 tasked with conducting a comprehensive analysis of faculty and staffs’ salaries —  and talks with the UTFA.

In the report, the group suggested that — after controlling for level of seniority, experience, field of study, etc. — the pay gap between women and men faculty was 1.3 per cent. Moreover, the group asserted that the raw data suggesting a 12 per cent pay gap could be explained by the, generally, fewer years of experience that women faculty have relative to men faculty and the prevalence of women faculty in lower paying fields of study.  

The UTFA responded claiming that the university had neglected to consider certain groups, such as part-time staff, in its analysis and used analysis methods that obscured the severity of the wage gap. In Canada, data from 2017 indicates that women are more likely to work part time, with 26 per cent of women in Canada working part time as compared to only 13 per cent of men. 

The UTFA’s own analysis revealed a pay gap for women that was at least double the university-implemented salary increase.

In December 2019, U of T announced a 3.9 per cent retroactive — from July 2, 2019 — increase to the salaries of women librarians. The decision followed an association grievance — an official complaint by the UTFA against U of T’s administration on matters relating to the Memorandum of Agreement agreed upon by both parties. The grievance addressed gender-based discrimination in the salaries of female-identifying faculty and librarians at U of T, and was filed on June 4, 2019. 

Current and future efforts 

Although the university and the UTFA were successful in reducing pay inequity for women librarians, they were unable to resolve the remaining components of the grievance, concerning access to demographic data on salaries and general remedying of the gender pay gap. The UTFA demanded that the university share its demographic data on salaries. 

Both parties agreed that the resolution process should be moved to a Grievance Review Panel — which is mandated by the university to resolve matters concerning conditions of employment.

In July 2021, the UTFA was ultimately successful and received access to the demographic data on salaries.

The association plans to conduct a comprehensive, intersectional salary discrimination analysis of this data. 

The gender pay gap in academia

Zorić pointed out that gender-based salary discrepancies are wider in university settings that employ discretion in merit determination, instead of seniority, while devising salary plans. Zorić posited that U of T’s faculty and staff compensation system relies heavily on such methods, allowing “room for bias.”

At U of T, Zorić explained that the administration may forward a “discretionary retention-based salary adjustment” — non-contractual adjustments made to a salary for the purposes of retaining an employee — to faculty members that have received offers of employment for other institutions. However, Zorić explained that, since women have been found less likely to receive offers of employment from other institutions, such discretionary methods contribute to greater gender-based pay inequities. 

According to Zorić, one way to tackle the wage gap is by ensuring bias is avoided within university compensation structures. Zorić emphasized the importance of reducing discretionary practices and increasing institutional transparency.