Women are overrepresented in elementary grades where pay is lower while men are overrepresented in higher education where pay is higher.
As many of us have experienced, the number of female teachers and instructors at our educational institutions decreased the longer we remained in school. It is not uncommon to see elementary schools composed of mostly female teachers, whereas institutions of higher education have more faculty members who are male.
During the 2017-2018 school year, of the nation’s 3.5 million public school teachers 76% were women. At the elementary school level only 11% of teachers were men whereas at the high school level, 36% of the teachers were men. The differences in pay between school levels has a significant impact for women: the average base salary for full-time public school teachers for elementary school teachers is $56,600 in comparison with $59,200 for high school teachers.
At institutions of higher learning, the American Association of University Professors reports that as higher ranks of instructor statuses were reached, there were less women represented.
Check out how women were represented in 2018:
- 50% of assistant professors
- 45% of associate professors
- 32.5% of full professors with tenure
Yet according to the recent National Center for Education Statistics, full-time instructional faculty with tenure during the 2018–19 school year was higher for males than for females (54 vs. 40 percent). In terms of compensation, faculty women’s salaries hover just above 80% of male faculty salaries, partly explained by women’s overrepresentation at institutions and in disciplines where faculty are generally paid less and also because women comprise more of the institutions’ “lower ranks”. Not only is this unbalanced, but also increases the chances for women to lose their jobs, as those in non-tenure-track and part-time positions are more vulnerable during a global pandemic when universities face budget cuts.
Yet women dominate in obtaining educational degrees! In 2018, women obtained more than half of the bachelor’s degrees (57.3%), master’s degrees (60.1%), and doctorate degrees (53.5%). Among all racial/ethnic groups, women were more successful than men at all degree levels! During the 2017–2018 year, of all Black degree earners, Black women attained 63.9% of bachelor’s, 69.8% of master’s, and 65.2% doctor’s degrees.
What can you do?
- Vote in the upcoming AAUW national election to expand AAUW membership by eliminating the college degree requirement and welcoming any individual who supports AAUW’s mission of equity for women and girls. Voting period is April 7 – May 17. Check your email for your voting link.
- Advocate for pay equity and fairness in compensation and benefits including Family Paid Leave, EEOC action, pensions, and social security. This includes access to childcare and family care options, as these responsibilities fall disproportionately to women.
- Challenge the assumption that male workers are the primary breadwinners and/or that women are the primary caretakers for children and families.
- Learn how to negotiate for higher salaries, regardless of your job, trade or industry! Remember that women are less likely to be offered and/or demand equal pay for their work when compared to men.
- Contact your university(ies) and/or college(s) and ask about their faculty demographics, specifically male vs. female for tenured faculty, tenure-track faculty, assistant professors, adjunct professors, etc.
- National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, “Characteristics of Public School Teachers (Last Updated: May 2020)”
- Weissman, Sara. “Female Faculty Continue to Face Stubborn Wage Gap and Underrepresentation in Tenured Positions.” Diverse: Issues In Higher Education. December 17, 2020.
- National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, “Characteristics of Postsecondary Faculty (Last Updated: May 2020)”
- Gray, Mary. “The AAUP and Women.” Academe 101, no. 1 (2015): 46-52. A history of the AAUP’s Committee W on Women in the Academic Profession.
- National Center for Education Statistics, “Table 318.30: Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctor’s Degrees Conferred by Postsecondary Institutions, by Sex of Student and Discipline Division: 2017-18,” 2019 Tables and Figures, Digest of Education Statistics (2019).
- National Center for Education Statistics, “Table 322.20: Bachelor’s Degrees Conferred by Postsecondary Institutions, by Race/Ethnicity and Sex of Student: Selected Years, 1976-77 through 2017-18,” 2019 Tables and Figures, Digest of Education Statistics (2019); National Center for Education Statistics, “Table 323.20: Master’s Degrees Conferred by Postsecondary Institutions, by Race/Ethnicity and Sex of Student: Selected Years, 1976-77 through 2017-18,” 2019 Tables and Figures, Digest of Education