Equal pay an issue at colleges

By Joanna Woodson – Staff Writer – jwoodson@unca.edu

The average American female makes 77 cents for every dollar the average American male earns, and UNC Asheville faculty and students said they find this discrepancy a disgrace.

“Women now have higher educational levels than men. So what? A woman with a B.A. now makes the same as a man with a high school diploma? It shouldn’t be this way. If anything, women should be making more money,” said Mark Gibney, Belk Distinguished Professor of political science at UNCA.

The median annual earnings for full-time, year-round women workers in 2010 was $36,931, compared to men’s $47,715, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“The odd thing is you think this is the price women pay for having kids. If they are going to have kids, then they are going to be out of the labor force. What one study showed, though, is that even women who never leave the workforce, women who never have children at all, still make a fraction of what men make,” Gibney said.

At UNCA, the average female professor makes $77,083 a year. The average male professor makes quite a bit less at $64,880; however, there are only 24 female professors compared to 41 males, according to university data.

“It does surprise me, because academia has long been dominated by men. They are the ones who are most senior, and in this gig, the longer you are around the better,” Gibney said.

UNCA employs 31 men and 38 women associate professors. Women associate professors make an average of $67,932, and men make an average of $68,739. Women assistant professors at UNCA average $62,841 and men $67,107, according to university data.

“It depends on how long they have been here. Someone who has been here for 30 years will obviously be making more than someone who became a full professor last year, but the fact that there are 24 women to 41 men, that can show you how people are rising up the ranks,” said Lori Horvitz, director of women, gender and sexuality studies department at UNCA.

The passage of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which happens to be 50 years old this week, made it illegal for an employer to discriminate against someone based on race, sex or religion. Employers must pay employees equally if the work holds the same amount of responsibility, effort and skill.

When the Civil Rights Act passed in 1964, it extended protection to compensation as well. It became illegal to deny a woman’s right to a raise, to transfer or to a promotion.

“We’ve gotten away from the idea that a woman’s income is an addendum, a nice thing to have. We all understand that women are breadwinners. It used to be just a little extra money and the male was the breadwinner but we are long past that,” said Gibney, who specializes in human rights and equality.

Sen. Wallace F. Bennett of Utah established an amendment called the Lily Ledbetter Act to link the Civil Rights Act and the Equal Pay Act. Differentiation among pay was lawful if the differentiation was based on merit, seniority or productivity, but not sex.

“I think people still have ideas that men should be making more money than women. There are reasons why some senators are still voting against the Lily Ledbetter Act,” Horvitz said.

The act, signed by President Obama in 2009, creates a 180-day statue of limitations for filing equal-pay and discrimination lawsuits.

Earnings for women with college degrees have increased by about 30 percent since 1979, on an inflation-adjusted basis, compared to about a 16 percent increase for male college graduates, according to UNC system data.

“I think we all, even as women, have our own internal sexism going on. We are programmed to do and see and act,” Horvitz said. “I think we were conditioned to prop up men.”

Buncombe County has an equal pay for equal work policy listed in the resolution, adding sexual orientation and gender identity in the non-discrimination statement.

“Men and women are different, but it doesn’t mean that one is more important than the other,” said sophomore Gabrielle McDaniel, who recently conducted research on women’s strength in combat. “Women are typically the multi-taskers. We are socially molded to be clear communicators, clear speakers, things like that.”

McDaniel said she is concerned about earning less than a man when she graduates.

On the Forbes list of America’s richest people, 12 women rank in the top 100, and only three make the top 20.

“Gender identity shouldn’t come before your worth,” McDaniel said. “Your worth should come from what you produce.”

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