Female science professors are paid thousands of pounds less than their male counterparts despite carrying out similar duties according to a report on the latest university salaries of senior scientists.
Women are on average paid about £5,000 less than men for a university professorship in science, but in some academic institutions such as Bristol University and the London School of Economics (LSE) the difference can be as high as about £21,000.
Male academic scientists are far more likely than women to get to the top of their profession. Once there, there they are also likely to be paid more, according to salary figures released after freedom of information requests to more than 90 British universities.
At the LSE, for instance, the 50 male professors in the departments of mathematics, geography and economics earn an average of £117,000 a year, while the nine female professors in the same departments earn an average annual salary of £96,000.
The 126 male professors in Bristol University’s science faculty earn an average of £91,500 while their 11 female colleagues receive just £70,300 on average, according to a report in the Sunday Times.
The gender pay gap, however, does not appear to be as great in other universities. Both Oxford and Cambridge offer similar salaries to their male and female science professors, although Oxbridge men at this academic grade still outnumber women by about six or seven to one.
Professor Uta Frith, a leading female scientist and head of equality and diversity at the Royal Society, condemned the gender discrimination in top pay within universities as “shameful”.
“I think the data provided shows fairly conclusively that over and above any other differences, gender is a factor. They also show that some institutions have got rid of this shameful difference, while others have not,” Professor Frith told the newspaper.
A spokesman for Bristol University said that historically men have progressed to a higher professional level than women which means that more of them have reached a higher pay scale for the same grade, which is based on length of service as well as experience.
Comparisons of the salaries of all university professors show that in general the gender pay difference has narrowed over recent years. The national average for women in 2010/11 was £71,910 while in 2012/13 it had fallen slightly to £71,831 – a salary decline of about 0.1 per cent. The equivalent male salary in 2010/11 was £76,738, falling to £76,467 in 2012/2013, a slightly bigger decline of 0.35 per cent.
However, both the salaries of professors at Bristol during the same period rose by 5.2 per cent for women and 3% for men, while at the LSE they rose by 0.01 per cent and 2.28 per cent respectively, indicating that the gender pay gap at the LSE was getting worse rather than better.
The latest figures have emerged at a time when science has been accused of institutional sexism in the wake of the controversial comments of Professor Sir Tim Hunt, the Nobel laureate who was recently quoted as saying that “the trouble with girls” in the lab is they fall in love with you and cry when they are criticised – something that Sir Tim has insisted was meant as a self-deprecating joke.
A spokeswoman for the LSE said the institution takes the gender pay gap “very seriously” and has already undertaken a number of strategies to retain and attract high-calibre women.
“We have started to do an equal pay analysis, to be repeated every two years. We have also begun to track and monitor closely our recruitment experience, from point of application through to appointment,” she said.
“Internal promotions are also being monitored to ensure that the treatment of men and women is equal. Part of this has been to introduce stronger mentoring, better guidance and better head of department support to ensure a higher volume of women applicants for senior posts. LSE is also in the process of creating a task group which, among other things, will look at new initiatives in this area.”
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies