Letter: University pay gap

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The Independent Culture
Sir: I have to take issue with your report, "Exposed: damning proof of the pay divide" (11 November). The results do not constitute evidence of sex discrimination.

Any serious investigation of the question whether there is sex discrimination in pay has to look at more than just average salaries. For example, for almost any measure of productivity - such as publication records - men, on average, out-perform women. It is legitimate for universities to "discriminate" between productive and unproductive researchers.

As your study also points out, men, on average, work in fields that are more highly paid than those taken up by women. Why are these fields highly paid? Is it because of discrimination? No.

The reason that an engineering professor gets paid more than a professor of French literature is twofold: first, there are a lot more people who are capable of excelling at French literature than there are who are able to excel in engineering; second, there is a market outside the university for engineers, but there is not for those with PhDs in French literature.

That is why law professors make more than sociology professors, and why professors of medicine earn more than professors of history.

As the economist Jennifer Roback has noted, "Once we observe that people sacrifice money income for other pleasurable things, we can infer next to nothing by comparing the income of one person with another."


London NW6