The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

The Battle for Women’s Equality — CUPA-HR Research Finds That Gaps in Pay Equity and Representation Persist

Today, August 26, is the 100th anniversary of Women’s Equality Day. On this day in 1920, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was adopted, giving American women the right to vote (although not all women were free to exercise that right). While the adoption of the amendment was a paramount victory for women in the U.S., women today continue to battle inequality across multiple domains, including the workforce.

In the higher education workforce, women’s inequality takes many forms, two of the most common being lack of representation in high-ranking positions and lower pay than their male counterparts in the same positions performing the same tasks. CUPA-HR, a strong advocate for women’s equality in the higher ed workforce, collects data on representation and pay in our annual Administrators in Higher Education, Professionals in Higher Education and Staff in Higher Education surveys. Findings from this year’s surveys paint a similar picture to results from 2019:

  • Women are better represented in lower-level, lower-paying administrative positions than in top executive positions. Women are paid less than men in nearly all administrative positions. Additionally, the salary gap between men and women is generally higher at older ages than at younger ages. The salary gap is present at all levels of experience, from those who are relatively new hires to those who have been in their positions for more than 10 years. (Administrators in Higher Education Report)
  • In professional leadership positions, women are generally paid less than their male counterparts. Black/Hispanic women have some of the lowest pay ratios in comparison to White men, particularly in leadership positions in information technology and athletics, where pay ratios are less than 90 cents on the dollar. (Professionals in Higher Education Report)
  • The staff area with the lowest percentage of women is skilled craft, which is also the staff area with the highest salaries. Women who work in skilled craft positions make $.87 on the dollar compared to men. (Staff in Higher Education Report)

Representation and Pay of Chief HR Officers

In addition to our annual reports, CUPA-HR recently published The Higher Ed HR Workforce Report, which includes data on representation, compensation and pay equity for women chief HR officers.

Although women make up the majority of CHROs (74 percent), the median pay for women is only $0.96 for every dollar paid to men (around $4,600 less per year at the median salary). The chart below shows the pay ratio of women to men and representation in the CHRO position over the past two decades.

Although institutions overall still pay women less than they pay men, much progress has been made in closing this gap since the 2000-01 academic year, when women CHROs were paid only $0.83 for every dollar paid to men (around $12,700 less per year at the median salary, equivalent to around $16,900 in today’s dollars). Over this same time period, women’s representation in this top HR leadership position increased from 61 percent to 74 percent.

Make Progress Starting Now

The first step to advancing the cause of women’s equality at our institutions is knowing what the data say about pay and representation of women in the higher ed workforce. CUPA-HR’s DEI Maturity Index is a great next step. The index helps you assess your institution’s progress on diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in five areas, including pay equity for faculty and staff, and offers guidance for addressing any weaknesses the assessment identifies. As you strive to create and sustain equitable hiring and compensation practices, an inclusive work environment, and a diverse workforce, be sure to explore more of CUPA-HR’s data on the representation and pay of women, as well as our other resources for diversity, equity and inclusion.

Related resources:

Representation and Pay of Women in Color in the Higher Education Workforce (CUPA-HR Research Brief)

The Gender Pay Gap and the Representation of Women in Higher Education Administrative Positions: The Century So Far (CUPA-HR Research Brief)