Holly Zhou

Twelve thousand five hundred sixty-four dollars: This is the average salary difference between male and female professors at Yale last year, according to newly released data on 531 Yale professors from the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Yale’s gender gap in faculty salaries is over $400 smaller than the gap at the average four-year private college. Additionally, Yale’s faculty salaries as a whole are ranked eighth highest, behind schools including Harvard, Stanford and Columbia. But the disparity between male and female professors — which the University has consistently tried to address through hiring initiatives — is tied to the low number of women among Yale’s senior faculty, a figure Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Tamar Gendler said has increased over time.

“The statistics reported in the Chronicle reflect averages between men and women, but they do not control statistically for other relevant factors,” Gendler said in an email to the News. “One of the strongest determinants of salary is the number of years someone has been teaching since receiving his or her Ph.D. The longer you have been teaching, the higher your salary tends to be.”

The Chronicle data, which reports salaries from the 2013–14 academic year, culled salary information filed with the U.S. Department of Education. Of the 531 Yale professors included in the data, roughly two-thirds were men. The salaries were those of professors among the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the non-medical professional schools. The data included the salaries of associate and assistant professors and lecturers, who all earned less than full-time professors on nine- or 12-month contracts.

FAS Dean of Academic Affairs John Dovidio, who runs the FAS faculty salary process, said the Chronicle data reveals an “illusory difference” between male and female faculty, one that will abate as more women are promoted to senior faculty positions.

“Women and men are becoming more similar in their years in the profession over time,” he said.

Still, women may face disadvantages on their paths to full professorship. While the number of women on Yale’s faculty has risen in recent years — from 17 percent of tenured faculty University-wide in 2002 to 21 percent in 2007, partially due to an administrative initiative to hire women in fields that were predominantly male — Yale, along with many of its peer institutions, struggles to retain tenure-track women. The 2015 Harvard FAS dean’s report on faculty trends found that tenure-track women faculty at Harvard left in consistently high rates. The most striking reason many of these women left the school, the report said, was that “the culture of the department was not conducive to their productivity and was a significant factor in their decision to leave.”

Departmental climate can mean many different things, said Allison Tait, a former postdoctoral associate in the Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies. Climate can be influenced by how the faculty treats child rearing, the degree to which colleagues respect certain kinds of research and who is nominated for academic awards and prizes, Tait said. While collecting data for a 2012 report by the Yale Women Faculty Forum, an organization dedicated to discussing gender issues, Tait found that some female professors at Yale left their departments even after they received tenure, a sign she said suggests that some departments may not feel welcoming to women.

“Numbers will help with retention, but numbers will not solve retention,” Tait said, calling for greater salary transparency and for the University to take a closer look at whether faculty are being rewarded for their productivity or for other reasons.

But WFF Chairwoman and School of Medicine professor Paula Kavathas said building a “critical mass” of female faculty through hiring initiatives in departments with higher pay and underrepresentation of women will help close salary gaps. She acknowledged that there are challenges to increasing the number of women in some departments, especially as female faculty at Yale often have competitive offers at other schools.

“We have outstanding women faculty, and they will get other job offers,” Kavathas said. “People don’t necessarily leave because they’re unhappy, they leave because they see another opportunity.”

While Gendler and Dovidio said the apparent gender gap among professors is caused by having fewer women in senior faculty positions, and that it disappears if one controls for discipline or teaching seniority, this logic may not explain why assistant professors, at a more entry-level teaching position, also see a gender gap of $5,787, according to the Chronicle data. Tait, who co-authored the 2012 WFF report, said gender inequity can be more easily observed among assistant professors, among whom there are fewer distinctions in seniority. Studies show that men do more bargaining than women after an initial salary offer, Tait said, noting that women, for a variety of reasons including a greater aversion to risk, may be less likely than men to leverage competing offers at other schools to raise their salaries. Some may not know that such practices are commonplace in academia, she added.

These initial pay differences have long-term implications, Tait said, and may result in larger pay gaps after several years of teaching.

Medical school professor Shirley McCarthy said female professors should ask more questions about their salaries and suggested that administrators take courses about unconscious bias.

But Gendler said the system of making salary decisions at Yale is one based on merit. The accomplishments of an individual faculty member — his or her research, teaching and service — play an important role in determining that faculty member’s salary. Gendler also pointed out that salaries differ on a departmental basis. For example, regardless of gender, professors in economics typically earn more than professors in classics, Gendler said.

Gendler, as the dean of FAS, can ultimately determine FAS faculty salaries, which she does on the basis of recommendations from department chairs and members of the FAS Steering Committee, which includes the deans of Yale College and the Graduate School, she said. “We remain vigilant … of potential disparities based on gender and other job-irrelevant factors,” Gendler said. “We will continue to monitor for disparities annually.”

The Yale Women Faculty Forum was established in 2001.