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Does Georgia State have a gender pay gap?

Illustration by Demetri Burke | The Signal

The average salary of a professor at Georgia State for men is $125,928 and for women is $107,505. This seemingly exposes a $18,423 gender pay gap.

This is according to data for the 2016-2017 academic year from The Chronicle of Higher Education, a newspaper and website whose primary audience is university faculty.

However, Georgia State’s Michael Galchinsky, who is the associate provost of the Office of Institutional Effectiveness (OIE), disagrees with the accuracy of these numbers.

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“That aggregate data is very misleading,” Galchinsky said. “They appear to tell a story that women are generally making less than men but without knowing all the other factors, it’s really hard to make sense of this data.”

The Chronicle receives its numbers from the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). IPEDS reports faculty pay for all degree-granting colleges.

Galchinsky said that data from Georgia State itself will soon be publicly released.

“Provost [Risa] Palm has directed the OIE to undertake a study of faculty salary by rank and gender in spring 2019. We’ll have data to share when that’s completed,” he said.

Dr. Peggy Albers is a professor at Georgia State and she was on the University Senate in 2010 when Georgia State conducted a gender equity analysis.

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Mary Finn, the former associate provost for institutional effectiveness, is the author of the report titled “Analysis of Faculty Salary: Differences by Gender,” which was published in June 2010.

The results of the study concluded that pay discrepancies at the university did exist, although they were minimal and localized within only one college.

According to official Georgia State University Senate minutes, a meeting was held on Oct. 19, 2010 to discuss the results of this study.

Following this, Georgia State University President Mark Becker requested further analysis for a corrective action plan from Peter Lyons, the former director of institutional research.

“Because the study wasn’t as in-depth as we wanted it to be,” Galchinsky said, the senate agreed to move forward with further analysis.

However, it was ultimately decided that “adoption of [a corrective plan] might be premature,” according to the meeting’s minutes.

This further analysis came in the form of an independent study in 2012 by Edsel Peña, a professor of statistics at the University of South Carolina (USC).

“Georgia State brought in an outside statistician. I believe [Becker] and this statistician were contemporaries at USC. The two of them knew each other and, from my perspective, very predicatively they found there was very little gender inequality at that time,” Albers said.

Albers contested that the results of the study were skewed, claiming the statistics were influenced by an existing relationship between Becker and Peña.

“Along with other faculty on the university senate, we thought that it was largely because of how the statistics were run.

Numbers can tell you anything you want them to tell you,” she said.

Through email correspondence, Peña confirmed that he previously met Becker during Becker’s time at the University of Michigan from 1989 to 2000. Becker later became the executive vice president and provost at USC, where Peña still works today.

Peña said his participation in a study of gender equity at Georgia State was contingent upon receiving full longitudinal data where faculty members would be individually unidentifiable.

“I believe President Becker knows my objectivity and that I’m only interested in the truth, and I believe he respects my academic credentials, specifically my statistical knowledge,” he said.

Ultimately, Peña’s follow-up study found little to no difference in pay between male and female faculty, including at faculty hire, and no difference in the ability of female faculty to receive promotions in rank.

“It’s a more difficult question than it might seem because there are a lot of factors that go into faculty salary. Finding out which factors are relevant and active can be complicated,” Galchinsky said.

He said gender was only one factor, and that Peña’s study also considered faculty member department, tenure, rank and number of years employed, which can influence pay.

“This is a national trend because there are different standards in different fields. Business professors all over the country tend to make more than humanities professors,” Galchinsky said.

Despite this, Albers believes she has seen instances of inequality among her colleagues.

“In my college, we have several regents’ professors. According to the Department of Audits and Accounts in [Open Georgia], one regent’s professor, male, earns $211,000 while a female faculty member who is also a regent’s professor, earns $165,000,” Albers said.

Galchinsky said that there can be differences in faculty salary, and those differences are not necessarily evidence of gender inequity.

“One of the things about discrimination is that perception of inequity matters,” he said.

Since Peña’s 2012 study which found no inequity at Georgia State, the university has not conducted any further internal research on the matter. Albers provided what she believes to be the reason for a lack of further study.

“Georgia State is often in the news for its achievements, and so consequently the optics around the differences in pay equality would not look good,” she said. “The issues around pay equality run much deeper than gender, and involve university policies that favor some faculty over others.”

Albers said she directly approached the Provost regarding the inequity she saw.

“We were later told by the department chair that the Provost said we were never to bring up salary issues again with her,” Albers said. “[That] the Provost chooses not to discuss issues around salary equality with faculty is highly troubling especially since some faculty are treated differently than others,” she said.
And according to Albers, even her finances have been personally impacted by this issue.

“From my perspective, the university has done little to adjust my salary, especially given my strong job performance,” she said. “I was told that I was a ‘personnel issue’ and ‘uncollegial,’ a profile I contend was largely created because of my outspoken attention to issues of salary equality and other faculty concerns.”

Gender pay gaps at higher higher education institutions are not uncommon, as 96 percent of these institutions pay men more than women for at least one rank, according to an annual report by the American Association of University Professors.

Whether there is a pay gap at Georgia State or not remains unclear.

“Georgia State is a data-driven university. We have made huge leaps over the last 10 years and a lot of that is due to the fact that we are willing to follow the data wherever it leads us, and we’ll do the same in this case,” Galchinsky said.

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