Some progress, but barriers remain for women faculty: McMaster studies


Two new studies about the status of women faculty at McMaster and gender pay equity find the University is making progress towards ensuring a fairer environment, but indicate more needs to be done in a number of areas.

One study, written by a task force chaired by Social Sciences dean Charlotte Yates, considered both the number of women faculty at McMaster as well as whether women are treated equitably. “The Task Force found there has been progress in women’s status at McMaster over the past decade. Nonetheless this progress remains uneven by faculty affiliation and rank,” the report says.

It found that McMaster has increased its proportion of women at all faculty ranks over the past seven years. This growth in numbers of women faculty was at a faster rate than other research-intensive universities in Canada. However, while McMaster has increased its proportion of women at the ranks of Associate and Assistant Professor, we have made little progress at the rank of Full Professor. Moreover, “there is unevenness amongst the Faculties,” the report finds. “Although McMaster overall has gone from lagging behind its comparators to nudging slightly ahead in terms of the proportions of women faculty…the University needs to regularly benchmark its achievements and implement gender-equity activist policies.”

The study recommends a number of actions to help the University continue to progress. Specific recommendations are aimed at changing mindsets and organizational culture, changing institutional policies and practices, increasing supports to women faculty and other work-life balance initiatives.

The Task Force report can be found here.

In terms of recognition for research excellence and leadership the “Task Force found systemic gender differences in the conferring of some external awards of research excellence and patterns of senior leadership at McMaster. A number of factors, including the uneven distribution of women faculty in different fields of expertise and by different rank; the undervaluing of a number of fields of study in which women are more likely to be found; how research excellence is understood and evaluated…and gendered life course pattern, were determined to play a role in the evidenced gender bias.”

“The Task Force has provided a very important road map for the University as we strive to ensure that women faculty have equal opportunity at McMaster. It is good news that we have made progress over the past decade, but we must commit ourselves to overcoming the remaining challenges,” says Provost David Wilkinson.

“There are recommendations that we can begin implementing right away including clarifying pregnancy and parental leave policy, improving policies and procedures that may limit women’s opportunity to apply for research funding and adjusting the way we recruit and evaluate nominees for prestigious positions such as endowed Chairs and Distinguished University Professorships,” he says. The report will also be extremely helpful to the AVP (Faculty), Dr. Susan Searls-Giroux, as she works to address issues related to career development and leadership amongst all McMaster faculty members.

A second study led by the Office of Institutional Research and Analysis reviewed possible gender equity differences in the salaries of full-time faculty. Since pay differences can be influenced by many factors, it sought to determine whether these arise because of gender.

Using University compensation data as of October 1, 2012, the study observed that male faculty on average, have significantly higher salaries than female faculty. However, when the analysis took into account factors such as rank, years of experience and Faculty, the remaining gender salary differential was about $2,350 in favour of male faculty with a margin of error of +/-$2,524 at the 5% significance level.

The analyses did not found sufficient evidence to conclude that there was a correlation between gender and the gap in annual salary. The University will continue to monitor salary differences as part of an ongoing commitment to equity.

The study can be found here

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