The Dutch Network of Women Professors (LNVH) demonstrated two years ago that female researchers working at universities earn less than their male colleagues. Depending on their rank, they earn anywhere between €41 (if they are assistant professors) and €438 (if they are full professors) less per month than their male counterparts. And no, that is not because they are worse at negotiating, LNVH states in a newly released study report.
The authors of the report, Belle Derks and Ruth van Veelen of Utrecht University, focused on the non-pecuniary differences between male and female academics, e.g. whether or not they are given permanent contracts, how their teaching and research duties are divided, and how much access they are given to resources that make their academic work easier.
They asked over four thousand assistant, associated and full professors working at fourteen different universities questions about these ‘hidden differences’ on the work floor and found that the terms of employment offered to female academics are less favourable than those offered to their male counterparts. The differences are slight but systematic, and always disadvantageous to women, the researchers stated. According to them, in the long term, such small differences may result in major inequality.
Distribution of tasks
The differences start with the distribution of tasks. For instance, women spend less time conducting research and more time teaching students. With respect to the latter, the difference is typically 70 hours per year, which amounts to nearly two full work weeks.
The researchers said that this might be caused by the fact that women typically receive worse lecturer evaluations from their students – due to gender bias – and therefore must work harder to be perceived to perform well. Moreover, parenthood seems to have a greater negative effect on the amount of time women can spend on their research than on the amount of time male academics can devote to their research.
An office of their own
Furthermore, women seem to have less access to resources such as research grants, travel budgets, assistants and offices of their own. The researchers also looked into an oft-heard argument for these differences, namely the commonly held belief that men are better at negotiating their terms of employment.
This is not true at all, say the researchers. Actually, the opposite is true. Women are actually more likely than men to use occasions such as performance appraisals or the award of a research grant to discuss their terms of employment. But, say the researchers, perhaps they are better at making the most of such opportunities because they are more likely to find themselves in situations that leave a lot of room for improvement.
The negotiations are not always successful. According to the study results, women systematically feel they are given less opportunity to negotiate than men, and are less likely to feel that their wishes are taken seriously. They are also more likely to believe that others feel they are asking too much.
According to the researchers, women tend to be less satisfied with the outcome of their negotiations than men, and the outcome tends to leave an uglier feeling in their hearts. The researchers point out that women do not seem to negotiate less than men, but do seem to be less effective in their negotiations.
LNVH regards the study results as an important contribution to the debate on the system used to remunerate academics, and hopes that universities, umbrella organisations and granting agencies will use them to good ends.