Press Release


June 7, 2018

Underpaid and Underrepresented: Women of Color in the Higher Ed Workforce

Research has shown that women and minorities each face their own challenges related to equal pay and representation in the higher ed workforce — women working in higher ed leadership earn less than White men; women are underrepresented in higher-paying, more prestigious positions in American colleges and universities; and minorities are underrepresented, particularly in high-level higher ed jobs, and underpaid in the majority of campus jobs.

But how do these inequities intersect for women of color?

CUPA-HR’s new research brief, Representation and Pay of Women of Color in the Higher Education Workforce, seeks to answer this question by examining representation and pay equity for the intersection of two groups: women and individuals who identify as either Black/African American or Hispanic/Latino. The brief explores the kinds of inequity women and ethnic minorities experience and how inequities differ by position type.

Here are some findings:

  • Women of color are paid only 67 cents on the dollar compared to White men in the higher education workforce.
  • In three out of four job types (professional, staff and faculty) women of color are paid less than White men, men of color and White women.
  • Women of color are underrepresented in the higher ed workforce as a whole compared to their representation in the U.S. population.
  • Women of color are represented more in lower-paying staff positions and less in higher-paying faculty, professional and administrative roles. This stands in contrast to White men, whose representation increases significantly with pay and position level.


So how do we begin to address these pay and representation inequities among women of color in the higher ed workforce? Here are three steps institutions can take:

  • Evaluate internal equity for both pay and representation across different job categories. Consider demographic factors both independently and in combination.
  • Compare with peer institutions using detailed and accurate salary data. In this way, ensure fair market wages for all employees and establish competitive salaries when it’s necessary to compete for a limited pool of minority candidates.
  • Take analyses beyond wages and consider employee turnover, age and experience. This may allow for a longer-term view and the ability to address the pipeline of minority women incumbents who could potentially be promoted into higher-prestige roles.

Says Jasper McChesney, author of the brief, “Equity issues cannot be solved overnight, but by planning strategically, with unbiased data, higher education institutions can continue taking steps toward more diverse and equitable campuses.”

Read the Representation and Pay of Women of Color in the Higher Education Workforce brief, and check out CUPA-HR’s other research briefs.

This brief was made possible with support from Fidelity Investments.

CUPA-HR is higher ed HR. We serve higher education by providing the knowledge, resources, advocacy and connections to achieve organizational and workforce excellence. Headquartered in Knoxville, Tennessee, and serving more than 25,000 HR professionals and other campus leaders at more than 2,000 member institutions and organizations around the country and abroad, the association offers learning and professional development programs, higher education salary and benefits data, extensive online resources and just-in-time regulatory and legislative information.

CUPA-HR is the recognized authority on compensation surveys for higher education, with its salary surveys designed by higher ed HR professionals for higher ed HR professionals and other campus leaders. Learn more about CUPA-HR research.

Contact Information:
Missy Kline
Content Manager –  Communications and Marketing


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