Education & Family

University wipes out gender pay gap with salary hike

Female scientist Image copyright Science Photo Library
Image caption Universities have been criticised for paying women less than men

A UK university is giving its female professors a one-off salary hike to wipe out the gender pay gap with their male colleagues.

The University of Essex is raising female professors' pay, to bring their average salaries level with the men.

It comes as UK pay data analysis by the Times Higher Education says full-time female academics are paid 11% less than men.

Essex said the move was motivated by "impatience" for change over the issue.

Vice-chancellor Anthony Forster said other steps dedicated to improving women's promotion chances had failed to close the pay gap at professorial level.

He said: "Treating our staff with equal respect and dignity is at the very core of our values as a diverse and inclusive community.

"This decision ensures we reward people in a fair way, based upon their contribution to our community, regardless of their personal characteristics."

No significant pay gaps were identified at other grades, or for other staff groups, but the university would be taking further steps to ensure this remained the case, he said.

'Little progress'

According to data collected by the Higher Education Statistics Agency for 2014-15 on full-time academic staff, women are paid £45,704 on average while men are paid £51,333 - a difference of £5,629.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said there had been "little progress" on the issue, which was highlighted by many union members during last week's two-day strike over pay.

The Universities and Colleges Employers Association said it "shared commitment" between employers and unions "to address these issues" and was continuing to work on them.

It added that the latest Office for National Statistics data, which includes part-time staff, shows that the gender pay gap in higher education fell by 1.3 percentage points to 14.7% last year, with the gap for university teachers down from 9.3% to 9.1%.

Times Higher analysis of data suggests a persistent, but smaller, pay gap for professors, with women paid 5.8% less on average than men - £74,682 against £79,252.

Essex's gap is just 3.1% (£2,439), which puts it in the bottom fifth for professorial pay gaps.

'Equitable treatment'

Queen's University Belfast had the largest pay gap for professors, with senior female staff paid £11,257 less on average than male ones, a 14% difference.

A spokeswoman said that the institution had identified the gap at professorial level and had taken "immediate steps to address this".

Queen's had received awards attesting to its "absolute commitment that all female and male academics are treated equitably in every aspect of university life", she said.

King's College, London, had the biggest gender pay gap of any large university when all kinds of academic staff are considered, with women paid £10,061 (17.7%) less than men on average.

The gap reflected the fact that there are fewer women than men in the most highly paid positions, it said, adding that it had introduced an institution-wide action plan on equal pay.

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