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Ginther examines faculty gender gaps in pay, tenure

A KU professor's research into gender gaps in pay and tenure among university faculty in the sciences is included in a new book released by the National Academies of Science Press.

Donna Ginther

Donna Ginther, associate professor of economics, found that, in the sciences, there are large differences in pay between men and women at the full professor rank. However, women in the discipline are just as likely to be promoted and receive tenure, she said.

Ginther presented her research to the academies in 2005, which will be included as a chapter in "Biological, Social, and Organizational Component of Success for Women in Academic Science and Engineering."

The social sciences were a different story, as the pay gaps among full professors were much smaller, but women were much less likely to receive tenure. Ginther researched a nationally representative sample of doctorates in the United States, with more than 100,000 observations regarding pay and more than 10,000 regarding tenure. The National Science Foundation funds her research.

Ginther is now working with NSF to obtain productivity data to determine why the gaps in pay and promotion exist. She said she doesn't expect one cause for all disciplines.

"Each discipline presents different opportunities and challenges for women relevant to men," Ginther said.

There are ways to solve the discrepancies, Ginther says. In terms of pay, salary should be equal at each rank for both genders. Tenure is a bit more difficult.

"Tenure is a subjective decision process," Ginther said. "There's no case that's ironclad. I think making the process as transparent as possible is important."

One of the largest problems facing women in academe is an environment that is not family friendly. Ginther found that after earning a doctorate but before landing a tenure track position, many women in the sciences decide either to have children or go after such a job.

"I found that women in science tend not to have children. Or at least not as many as men," Ginther said.

Those who do, tend to have fewer and have them later in life.

KU has a policy in which a tenure track professor can put his or her tenure clock on hold when a child is born or during adoption for a year up to two times. However, some choose not to use such policies because it may be construed that he or she had more time to achieve tenure.

Such policies are also addressed in the book. It includes chapters on university policy, family-friendly policies, and the question of innate intellectual differences between men and women, as well as Ginther's research of gender gaps.

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