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Education

UNC-Chapel Hill faculty hope to improve 'persistent' salary inequity for women and faculty of color

The Old Well on campus at The University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C. Reports from the school and the NCAA say UNC-Chapel Hill faculty and staff oversaw a student-athlete grade-inflation scheme that lasted almost twenty years.
The Old Well on campus at The University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C. Reports from the school and the NCAA say UNC-Chapel Hill faculty and staff oversaw a student-athlete grade-inflation scheme that lasted almost twenty years.

The UNC-Chapel Hill Faculty Council has approved a resolution to undertake a 20-year initiative to study and improve equitable pay for faculty. The resolution seeks to reduce wage gaps between male and female professors and across different races.

“Now is the moment,” said faculty chair Mimi Chapman following its passage Friday. “We do have a chancellor who’s committed right now to looking at this.”

The resolution calls for the chancellor to initiate these actions:

  • the formation of a salary equity oversight committee,
  • an annual salary equity report on faculty compensation that displays differences broken down by gender, race, ethnicity, rank, years at UNC-CH, and track,
  • regular reports to the faculty council on the outcome of the annual salary equity report, 
  • the creation of a university website that provides public information about salary equity, 
  • the collection of exit surveys for all faculty who leave the university.

Data collected over the past 20 years prompted the resolution. Last month, professor Misha Becker presented statistics on faculty salaries to the UNC-Chapel Hill Faculty Council.

Studies conducted internally by the university and by its faculty Committee on the Status of Women between 2002 and 2020 show persistent gaps in the wages of faculty based on their gender and race.

“What we can see when we look across time at these studies is that salary equity really remains a problem at UNC,” Becker said in her presentation at the faculty council’s March meeting.

“Even when you control for tenure, status and rank, on average male faculty earn more than female faculty,” Becker said.

Also on average, white faculty earn more than faculty who are Black, Latino, American Indian, or identify as another racial category.

Below are the average wage gaps among professors in the University’s Academic Affairs Division identified in the university’s salary equity study on the 2019-2020 academic year:

2020 faculty wage gaps.JPG
Elizabeth Schlemmer
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Most alarmingly, Becker said, the gender wage gap for full professors at UNC-Chapel Hill has widened – in fact more than tripled – since the university began tracking that metric 20 years ago.

In 2001, the wage gap between male and female faculty who attained the rank of full professor was about $8,500 per year, and in 2020, it had risen to almost $27,000 per year.

Members of the faculty council acknowledged that disparities in faculty salaries are common across the field of higher education, but they described this resolution as a step toward change at UNC-Chapel Hill.

“If we look at other institutions of higher ed, our peers, we don't look too different from them in terms of salary equity,” Becker said. “But rather than looking at that and saying, ‘well, that's just the way it is,’ I think this really presents us with a great opportunity for us to be leaders in higher ed in this arena.”

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