Female staff members at the University of Exeter are expected to earn 21 per cent less than their male counterparts – whilst the gender pay gap for academics is, on average, 16.7 per cent.
According to an Exeposé Freedom of Information (FOI) request, the University’s gender pay gap has a mean value of £8,476 for all staff members, whereas the gap for professors is £2.465. There is a distinct difference between pay discrimination of professors, compared to academics and staff members more broadly.
Dr. Emily Bernhard Jackson, an English lecturer at the University gave Exeposé her perspective on the issue, highlighting the University’s responsibility to “equalise pay across the spectrum” of all University employees. “There’s an overarching issue with lecturers’ salaries in that they all lag behind inflation and cost of living by roughly 14 per cent,” she said. “However, the gender pay gap specifically highlights the inequality of women in academia at all levels, from cleaners to professors.”
Furthermore, Dr. Bernhard Jackson emphasised the difference between the salaries of permanent professors at the University and those of staff members:
“Equal pay isn’t just a question of justice for staff members, but a material necessity if they are to meet their basic needs.”
A professor from the College of Social Sciences and International Relations also offered their take on the pay difference: “Sociologically speaking, we gravitate towards people who are similar to us, so men will tend to employ and respect other men due to certain societal preconceived ideas,” they told Exeposé. “So as much as people like to deny this, prejudice is essentially subconscious and that’s something that should be tackled.”
Despite the University’s work in reducing the gender pay difference for professors in comparison to other staff members, there still seems to be a significant gap between staff salaries as a whole. This is reflected through recent statistics showing a 0.3 per cent difference in the median salary gap since July 2016, which has fallen from 3.2 per cent, to 2.9 per cent, in light of the Professional Salary Review of October 2016.
In March 2016, The University and College Union (UCU) released a report in the run up for International Women’s Day, to expose UK Universities for unequal wages of academics. Exeter ranked 30th in a league table of the UK’s top universities for gender pay gap discrepancies.
In defense of the relatively low ranking, a University spokesperson commented:
“We value our many talented female members of staff. We are passionately committed to gender equality and are working hard to address pay gaps, and invest in all staff. Gender equality is at the heart of everything we do and we work hard to create an environment where all our staff are supported.”
However, the UCU report highlighted the issue around female academics at The University of Exeter – who received an average annual salary of £41,821, £8,361 lower than that of male academics. This means that on average, female academics at the University are set to earn 83.8 per cent of what male academics earn over the course of a year.
An anonymous senior lecturer in the humanities department of the University of Exeter has categorised these statistics as “outrageous.”
One humanities lecturer said:
“I’ve never believed that The University is as poor as it claims, especially when the Vice Chancellor even gets a free house. Faculty staff are easy to exploit, as it can be difficult to find another job, an issue that’s exemplified with job descriptions requiring lower grade skills.”
The lecturer also criticised pay imbalances between different job roles, adding: “The University should give the cleaners a raise, as they need it the most.”
When comparing annual statistics, the gender pay gap at Exeter has risen in 2015-2016, compared to previous years. Whereas in 2013-14, female professors earned 98 per cent of male professors’ wage, in 2015-16, this fell to 96 per cent. Over this time, the mean gender pay gap essentially increased by 154 per cent from £1,338, to £3,400.
A 2005 UCU report seems to confirm this trend: the gender pay gap for academics at Exeter was nearly £1000 lower over a decade ago (£7,553, compared to £8.361). This “downward trend over the past [few] years” is an issue that worries Dr. Paul Young, senior lecturer in English: “It’s a really important topic, and one that myself and many of my colleagues are concerned about,” he said.
More than four decades after the Equal pay act of 1970 was introduced, the University of Essex took the initiative and attempted to wipe out gender pay gap discrepancies at the University. A one-off salary hike was introduced in June 2016 to level the salaries of male and female academics. Dr. Bernhard Jackson remembered a similar initiative by her previous, American, employer, the University of Arkansas.
Dr. Bernhard Jackson focused on the complexities of the gender pay gap statistics:
“Broad statistics don’t differentiate between the Sciences and Humanities. There are fewer women in the Sciences, especially at higher levels, and simply because of that there are more men there making higher salaries.
Statistics that differentiate between Sciences and Humanities might show that the gender pay gap is not quite so high in the Humanities- but they might not.”
Times Higher Educdation conducted an investigation under their Higher Education Statistic Agency, showing that The University of Exeter has broadened the gender pay gap ratio, in comparison to University-wide national averages. When considering that all full-time academics in the UK, women are paid an average of £45,704, whilst men holding the same positions are paid £5,629 more, pushing their salaries to an average of £51,333.
One Social Sciences and International Relations professor said: “The University remains to be a business and I often think it forgets that it is also a place of education and that it should use its ability to be a leader in a wave of socio- economic equalization in a more positive manner.”
Meanwhile a University spokesperson said:
“We recognise that, in line with the national picture, women are underrepresented in the more senior academic roles and we are taking proactive steps to address this. Increasing the representation of women in professorial roles is of vital importance to both the senior management of the University and its governing body.
Support for female staff members at the University is nonetheless reflected through a Maternity Pay scheme, which includes full time pay for the first eight weeks. A part-time pay scheme takes over for the following eight weeks, in accordance to one’s eligibility with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).”
The University of Exeter’s Feminist Society told Exeposé:
“The gender wage gap has been proven time and time again to exist – our university has one of the largest in the country and it’s a symptom of our archaic elitism. While the situation has improved for white women we need to center the debate around women of colour, disabled women and trans-women who disproportionately face this injustice. How representative are we if Exeter hasn’t managed to consistently hire from these groups, let alone pay them enough?”
The university spokesperson added: “The University holds an Athena SWAN Bronze award for its work in addressing the barriers faced by women in progressing in a higher education career. Each individual STEM discipline also holds Athena SWAN awards, along with the Classics and Ancient History department. Such attempts are in alliance with The University’s women-only leadership development initiative, Aurora, mirroring the University’s initiative to encourage females to advance themselves in higher academic positions.”