The salaries of female full-time teaching staff at universities across Canada are significantly lower that those of their male counterparts, according to Statistics Canada.
The University of Manitoba falls under this category, as the average salary for all professors, including associate and assistant professors, is $108,149, with male staff making $112,895 while female staff have an average salary of $98,269.
A study released in 2005 entitled, “The rising profile of women academics” by Statistics Canada stated that while the number of women in full-time teaching positions rose by over 50 per cent between 1990-91 and 2002-03, the median salary of female teaching staff was approximately $13,000 less than that of their male colleagues.
“What could [ . . . ] be an explanation would be age distribution of the faculty, because if you have [ . . . ] the female faculty as newer and younger, then you would expect to have some differences in wages compared to the more senior and older faculty,” explained Laura Brown, associate professor in the department of economics at the U of M.
While there are many reasons for the discrepancy, the practice of systematic discrimination — policies and procedures that appear to be neutral which result in differential treatment of a particular group — can also play into these pay differences between male and female professors.
“There’s a whole range of practices and procedures that go on in universities that can be subtle,” said Susan Prentice, professor of sociology at the University of Manitoba.
“Luckily these days they’re not very formal but have the effect in a number of ways of disadvantaging particular groups, women among them,” she continued.
“One of the ways it plays out at our university here that we’ve known since 1993 is that across all disciplines, women are more slowly promoted to the rank of full professor than their male colleagues are,” said Prentice.
“We’ve known this occurs at this university since 1993.”
Women also have their careers often interrupted to have children, resulting in slower advancement in pay levels.
Marlene Bertrand, chair of the Manitoba Women’s advisory council on the Status of Women stated, “I think it could be part of the picture. [ . . . ] We need to look at ways that we can work to overcome this.”
One of the most significant steps in changing these trends is a thorough system of monitoring.
“Tackling systematic discrimination is complex, and it involves changes in organizational cultures as well as organizational forms and practices,” said Prentice.
“One of the best things we can do at this university is undertake a robust salary study to find sex discrimination so we can correct it.”
Monitoring rates of promotion is also important for determining whether or not sex discrimination is taking place.
“What can happen is that any of the tendencies to promote, either by sex or race or anything that perhaps even [ . . . ] it could even be someone in different disciplines or different topics are viewed as more valuable that another one.”
While the rate of female presence in full-time teaching positions at post-secondary institutions is on the rise, some feel the changes are happening not fast enough to produce a significant difference.
“Time heals many wounds, but my own research that I’ve conducted suggests that the pace of that is too slow to be satisfactory,” said Prentice. “Our hiring practices are far from gender neutral, despite policies to the contrary.”