Wage gap affects female professors across departments, SUNY-wide union looks to find solution to the issue

A graph (pictured above) compares the average female to male wages on campus between the biology, business and political science departments. Data from a public records request to the New York State Comptroller’s Office shows that women typically make less than men in various departments across campus, despite holding similar job positions and qualifications (Kara Burke/assoc. news editor).

For three different departments at the college—biology, business, and political science—there is a significant gender wage gap, affecting science, technology, engineering, math and humanities programs at Geneseo. 

Between male and female professors in the School of Business, the biology and political science departments, there was an average gap of $9,000, according to a public records request to the New York State Comptroller’s Office.      

United University Professions, the SUNY-wide union for faculty and staff, is currently looking into ways to address this gap, according to Geneseo chapter president Wes Kennison. The union started to address issues of inequity in their most recent contract, but often there is not enough funding to address all inequity adequately, Kennison said.  

Kennison explained that the new contracts use discretionary salary increases instead of discretionary salary awards to combat inequity instead of essentially receiving a bonus as professors did before. The increase is added to the base salary every year. This allows there to be a continual build up and increase in pay.

“So unfortunately, we only have this 1 percent of the salary pool that’s designated for dealing with that whole range of issues and one of them is gender inequity,” Kennison said. “What we actually really need is full funding for the university … when we don’t have the proper resources to address these issues, then everybody’s kind of, you know, fighting over the crumbs.” 

Professors on campus acknowledge the wage gap and some have provided suggestions that could be implemented by administration to help mitigate the gap. 

One major reason for the gap is that women are often employed at lower levels than men, causing vertical segregation, according to lecturer of political science and sociology Joanna Kirk.

“I think that Geneseo could do more to address the gender wage gap,” Kirk said. “For one thing, I don’t know exactly what form it would take, but support for women who take time off to have children, that’s always an issue because then you come back and you’re sort of behind.” 

Kirk argues that while the campus alone can’t correct societal pressures that push women into certain fields and lower wages, they could provide negotiation training for employees that would benefit women especially.

“Research shows that men are much more effective at negotiating salary increases,” Kirk said. “Women socially are sort of not required … to be assertive and say, ‘I’m worth more’ ... so maybe the college could step in and train us all.” 

Some students, like biology major freshman Emily Strong, recognize the gender wage gap as a national and global issue, but they still feel Geneseo could be doing things that would help decrease the gap. 

“I definitely think Geneseo could work on it, if it is an isolated issue than they should get it fixed,” Strong said. “If it is structural, they should take a step back and look at the whole overall, and try to fix it that way”