MSCA finds gender wage gap at FSU

A study on gender bias released by the Massachusetts State College Association found a gender pay gap among associate professors at Framingham State.

On average, male associate professors at the University earn $5,340 more than female associate professors, according to the report. There was no significant difference in years of service.

There are 197 full-time faculty members employed by the University, according to Erin Nechipurenko, assistant vice president of Human Resources. Of those full-time faculty, there are 53 associate professors.

Based on those numbers, more than a quarter of all full-time faculty are associate professors.

The study,  “MSCA’s Findings on Gender Bias in Full-Time Faculty Salaries: Data Analysis towards a Deeper Understanding,” was co-authored by Virginia Rutter, interim chair of the Framingham State sociology department, and Jenn Berg, a math professor at Fitchburg State University.

Rutter said, “Members here at Framingham State were asking, ‘What about gender issues?’ Which is a reasonable thing for every woman at work – for every person at work – to ask. … We were not hot on the trail of some big crisis. We wanted to test this.”

The study used the fall 2015 salary data of full-time faculty across all the state universities, according to the executive summary of the study. The data were stripped of all identifying information, but still included gender, rank, years of service, salary and university of employment.

The study revealed gender pay gaps of varying significance in different positions at Mass Maritime Academy, Massachusetts State College of Liberal Arts, Salem State University and Westfield State University.

Rutter said, “While there are significant differences for other ranks and other schools, we were particularly attentive of this difference [at Framingham State] because it was not accompanied by years. It gives us even stronger evidence to point to the gender gap.”

Westfield State University is the only other university in the MSCA system where a salary gap exists between genders without any significant difference in years of service, according to the study.

There were no significant gender pay gaps found at Bridgewater, Worcester, Fitchburg State universities. Across the entire state university system, there was no significant gender pay gap at the rank of assistant professor.

Vincent Ferraro, a sociology professor, said the lack of a gender pay gap at the assistant professor level is promising. “This suggests that efforts to close the gap upstream – at the entry point for the tenure track – have been successful. Whether this parity persists is something we’ll need to keep an eye on with future analyses.”

President F. Javier Cevallos and Kim Dexter, director of equal opportunity at FSU, deferred to Vincent Pedone, executive officer for the State University Council of Presidents, for comment on this study, as it has been discussed in the course of bargaining between the MSCA and the BHE.

Pedone raised a number of concerns about the accuracy and release of the study.

The study did not control for years of service, the faculty’s academic discipline or market factors, he said. “I am in no way, shape or form a researcher, but … I’m thinking that a simple t-test is probably not the most reliable measure to draw any conclusions on salaries at state universities.

“Additionally, it concerns me that the data they used is old data from 2015,” he added.

He said, “For these reasons, I don’t think it’s appropriate at all to conclude that there is a gender salary bias on our state university campuses based on this report.”

Pedone added while he applauds the MSCA’s efforts, the timing and “controlled release” offered no opportunity for the Board of Higher Education or the Council of Presidents to review the data or methodology of the study.

He said when he received a paper copy of the report, he thought it was only intended as a topic of discussion at upcoming meetings.

“I honestly thought it was a draft given to us in order to start a conversation and not something that was going to be discussed in public,” he added.

Rutter said FSU administrators were aware of the ongoing study and were sent links to the executive summary on the day it was given to the bargaining team.

“There was nothing on the handout we provided that stated ‘draft,’ so I’m very sorry that he didn’t understand when we publish a study that the study is made available,” she said.   

There is nothing “hidden or mysterious” about the data or the methodology used to analyze the data, Rutter added.

“The techniques we were using were very simple statistical techniques that people can do if they are curious about the information,” she said.

Rutter said, “How the test fits the data is what is important, and the simplest, most transparent test is often the best. The tools we were using with descriptive and more transparent statistics are in fact methods for ‘controlling’ for various things.”

In response to concerns about relevance of the 2015 data, CJ O’Donnell, MSCA president and a math professor at Mass Maritime Academy who worked closely with Berg and Rutter on the study, said, “With another year and the formulary increase that was applied July 1, 2016, we think results would be ‘better’ – that is, there would be a lower chance of gender bias as of today.”

Rutter stressed the MSCA did the best analysis possible given the data and resources available.  “I would say that it’s more than a jumping off point because this study comes in the context of so much other work” done regarding gender wage gaps, especially in higher education.

This “helps us to recognize that these patterns in our data are similar and that in some ways, they’re different,” she added.

The institutions within the MSCA have fewer instances of gender wage bias than many institutions of public higher education, including the UMass system, said Rutter.

The MSCA believes that the institution of formulary increases has helped reduce social inequalities, including gender inequality, according to the executive summary.

A formulary increase is a process in which the BHE compares the salaries of faculty, staff and librarians at the state universities to those at comparable institutions. Based on these determinations, faculty, staff and librarian salaries are raised a small percentage to bring their pay closer to that at comparable institutions.

As all workers are compared to the same value, the MSCA believes it can help to flatten any initial differences in salary that could have been based on gender, race or some other factor.

In the course of negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement, the BHE and COP have proposed eliminating this practice.

Ferraro said, “Research around the country and around the world demonstrates time and again that work performed by women is valued less than work performed by men, even when it’s the same exact work. And here I mean the literal valuation – how much they’re paid.”

Pedone said the collective bargaining agreement between the BHE and the MSCA accounts for a joint salary study to be conducted by the COP and the MSCA.

“Frankly, if the union perceived that there were salary inequities on our campuses, a better forum for this discussion would probably have started with a joint salary survey. So, I’m happy to join with the union to collaborate on a new salary survey to inform this discussion,” he added.

Robert Donohue, MSCA vice president and president of the Framingham State MSCA chapter, said, “If the COP is interested in working with the MSCA on investigating possible salary bias, I assume MSCA would welcome that opportunity.”

Ferraro said this study is a reminder that equality is something that people must continually fight for.

He added, “it’s not like once we get there, we’re done. Things tend toward inequality, so getting to a level playing field is just the start. Staying there requires just as much effort, maybe more.

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