It's time for women to turn the tables

In pay and promotion, the figures on equal opportunities just don't add up. And that's official.
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MALE ACADEMICS at almost every university and college in the United Kingdom are paid more than women, according to the first league table of its kind, which has been compiled from official figures and is published exclusively in The Independent today. The exceptions are Glasgow College of Art and King Alfred's College, Winchester, a former teacher-training college named after the king who burnt the cakes, where women are paid more than men.

The gap in pay between men and women dons varies enormously between institutions. It is most pronounced at the London Business School, where men earn an average of almost pounds 20,000 a year more than women, and is least acute at Edge Hill College of Higher Education, in Ormskirk, Lancashire, another former teacher-training college, where the differential is just under pounds 500. On average, male academics in the United Kingdom are paid pounds 4,307 a year more than their female counterparts.

"There's a massive problem of sex discrimination, from the top to the bottom of the entire system," says Tom Wilson, head of the universities department at the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (Natfhe) which put the table together from figures supplied by the Higher Education Statistics Agency. "It's got many causes - subject mix, the presence of a medical school, differences in promotion rates. But, whatever the reasons, none of them is justified."

Publication of the figures comes at a key moment. Higher education employers have agreed to set up a working party to look at equal opportunities, after the Bett report; it meets for the first time later this month. "We, along with the other higher education unions, will be pressing the employers strongly for urgent action," says Mr Wilson.

There are a number of things university vice-chancellors can do immediately, according to Natfhe. First, they can set targets for improving women's pay, broken down for professors, senior and principal lecturers and for those entering academe. Such targets should be monitored, so it can be seen that progress is being made.

Second, universities should implement guidelines drawn up by the Commission on University Career Opportunity (Cuco), says the lecturers' union. Despite the fact that Cuco was set up by the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, most universities are unaware of its guidelines, says Mr Wilson. The guidelines recommend that there be at least one woman on an appointments panel, that panel members be trained in recruitment, and that the numbers applying and being appointed to jobs be monitored.

The table shows that the widest gap between men and women's pay is found in old universities, particularly those that teach male-dominated subjects such as medicine, science and technology. The narrowest gap is found in new universities and colleges of higher education that concentrate on the humanities and teacher-training. But there is quite a mix in between. The new university with the greatest differential is London Guildhall (pounds 5,032) followed by Coventry University (pounds 4,949).

A large part of the difference between old and new universities is explained by the lower proportion of staff who are promoted within the new universities, and therefore, the reduced opportunity for discrimination in promotion in those institutions, according to Mr Wilson.

The London Business School (LBS) is in a league of its own. Not only does it have the biggest pay differential, it pays much heftier salaries than elsewhere. That's because it's competing for a few gurus, such as Gary Hamel, the fast-talking American who jets in from California every few weeks to spread his gospel about "core competences".

Some subjects at the LBS contain almost no women academics. For example, accounting and finance has only one woman, says the faculty dean, Professor Saul Estrin. That reflects the small number of women studying these subjects, he says but goes on to admit that more could be done to promote women. There are no women professors at the LBS. "The LBS is very concerned about this. I think we will begin to do something about making women full professors," he says.

Medical schools, and universities with their own medical schools, also have bigger differentials between men's and women's pay than other institutions. That is because medical schools have historically been bastions of male privilege. Today, women are in the majority among new entrants to medicine, but their presence has not yet percolated through to the top academic jobs.

Leicester University says that its large differential between men and women (pounds 7,306) is not surprising, given the male-dominated medical profession. Leicester has 127 full-time male clinical staff compared with 15 women.

"This is the major reason for the difference," says a spokesman. "We are convinced that recruitment into medicine will change, because nearly 60 per cent of our current medical students are female."

One institution with a surprisingly high gap, given its specialism (pounds 6,296), is London's Institute of Education. Its director, Peter Mortimore, attributes the disparity to the fact that it employs a large number of researchers, who are mainly women, at the beginning of their careers. But it is also a small institution, with only 170 academic staff, so the older professors, who are mainly men, skew the figures more than they would in a larger university.

In the last two years, the institute has promoted four women and three men to professorships. "We are confident that this trend will result in a more equal picture over the next few years," says Mortimore. Another London college with a big differential is the London School of Economics (pounds 6,079). The LSE says that this has reduced recently. It is trying to do something about the gap at professorial level, which it attributes to the relatively small number of women professors who are employed.

The English college that pays women more than men - King Alfred's in Winchester - says it tends to recruit teacher-trainers from primary schools, who are mainly women. They are senior staff and have to be paid decently. Starting salaries are about pounds 26,000-pounds 27,000. And the college has a policy of promoting women, according to Vice-principal, Tommy Geddes. There is always a woman on an appointments panel and, ideally, someone who has been trained in equal opportunities.

The university with the smallest gap is North London (pounds 822). Its Vice- chancellor, Brian Roper, says that the university has emphasised equal opportunities for 15 years. His aim now is to remove the differential entirely.

The tables shown right list the 20 universities and colleges with the biggest and the 20 with the smallest pay differentials.

For the full table, log on to The Independent's website on: