In addition, despite the lack of gender gap among faculty hired in the last 10 years, the report found statistically significant salary differences between men and women faculty at Brown who started prior to 2012. An analysis of Fiscal Year 2021 showed that the average median salaries for women at Brown are 88% of men’s salaries. While the data for the last decade indicates significant progress, the fact that an overall pay gap remains reflects a national trend, the report notes.
“Women in full-time faculty roles [nationally] make roughly 82 cents for every dollar their men counterparts earn, according to the American Association of University Professors’ annual faculty compensation survey,” the report states. “Based on data from over 2,000 higher education institutions, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported that the average U.S. professor’s income for the 2020-21 academic year (nine-month salary) was $95,159 for men and $79,090 for women. This trend holds when data are restricted just to full professors, with men earning, on average, $131,160 compared to $111,953 for women. It is therefore not surprising that we heard many concerns about equity in compensation for women compared to their colleagues who are men.”
These differences at Brown are in part attributable to the historic legacy of the time to promotion to full professor, as women rank at the associate professor level for two years longer than men, on average. While there is no gender gap in salary among faculty hired in the past decade, the task force noted the need for active steps to ensure it does not reappear. The review of compensation data did not consider a number of other factors that could contribute to differences in compensation, such as home department, and the report therefore recommends further analysis to meet Brown’s goal to “promote and ensure equity across every dimension.”
Next steps for task force recommendations
To fulfill their charge, task force members worked over the course of 18 months to collect, evaluate and deliberate quantitative and qualitative data related to numerous aspects of the faculty experience at Brown, such as research, teaching, service, mentoring, assigned research space and campus climate. Members analyzed datasets provided by several administrative units; solicited input from Brown faculty in a variety of forms, including conversations with and anonymous feedback from current faculty members as well as former members of the faculty who have left Brown; and incorporated feedback from several University committees to prepare the final report.
Members also considered the status of past initiatives at Brown focused on areas the report investigated, including issues of representation, equitable working terms and conditions, opportunities for career advancement and overall climate for women faculty. The task forced notes in the report that its work is rooted in a series of previous efforts at Brown to dismantle obstacles to gender equity among faculty — from the full merger of Pembroke College with the men’s college of Brown University in 1970, to a consent decree entered in 1977 to achieve full representation of women on the faculty, to measures initiated in recent years as part of the University’s Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan.
“While there has been progress over time at Brown and nationally with respect to the representation of women faculty, this report underscores that inequities by gender persist both at Brown and nationally,” the task force states in the report. “Only by revealing gender disparities and the policies, systems and structures perpetuating these gaps will the University be positioned to rectify matters and reach its full and greatest potential.”
Lipscombe noted that the insights of the late Meenakshi Narain, a longtime Brown physics professor who was a mentor and role model to hundreds of women in the physical sciences in the U.S., in India and across the world, were instrumental in the task force’s work.
In a cover letter accompanying the report, Paxson said that addressing the areas for improvement outlined in the report will take time and resolve, but that it’s vitally important for Brown to do so. She said the first step for the University is to accept the task force recommendation to “appoint an implementation team to develop an action plan to prioritize, spearhead and track implementation of the recommended actions” in coordination with Brown’s Faculty Executive Committee.
Additional data-gathering efforts — a campus climate survey, a faculty satisfaction survey and a childcare needs assessment — will culminate this summer and fall, and will provide more critical data on Brown community members’ experiences with opportunity, support and access. Next fall, Paxson and incoming Provost Frank Doyle will share the results of those efforts, as well as plans to address the full set of task force recommendations.
“Brown is committed to ensuring that all members of our community are provided with equal opportunities and support to advance their careers and meet their full potential,” Paxson said. “As national conversations continue concerning employment disparities among men and women faculty, we felt it was important to examine the status of women faculty at Brown. I am deeply grateful to the members of the task force for their dedicated efforts, and I look forward to continued work together to fully address representation, equity and inclusion with respect to women faculty at Brown.”