University of Waterloo Increases Female Staff’s Salaries to Account for $2905 Wage Gap

Alex Pezzutto - 1A Nano
Posted on: September 24, 2016

The concept of the wage gap has been a major point of contention in recent years: the most common belief that women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes is quite a convoluted statistic. Many people interpret this to mean that women are underpaid for doing the same work that men do, yet others have questioned the validity of this purported “fact”, stating that the number does not account for variables such as job positions, hours worked, or different jobs. The actual value of the pay gap is questionable; however, make no mistake: there exists a wage gap between faculty members at the University of Waterloo, which is a rather shocking discovery.

The investigation created a data set comprising the salaries of 344 female and 827 male faculty members which were analyzed using a regression model. Of the total population, 71 cases were identified to be anomalous and, after the data set was adjusted, the regression model was run once again revealing that a $2905 systemic gender anomaly existed in favour of male faculty members.

How controlled was the study? Quite thoroughly. Variables including merit (faculty members obtain a grade based on their work performance out of a 2.0 score), lag of years between highest degree and year of hire, years since hire, number of previous Outstanding Performance Awards, highest degree, current rank, academic group, rank at hire, interaction between academic group, a binary variable for lecturer vs professorial rank, and interaction between lag and rank at hire were all considered when the model was executed. The R2 value (a number used in statistics to determine how close a set of data correlates with a projected regression line) obtained from the data model explains that 90% of the variability in salaries can be described by the model. Without doubt there are other variables to take into account when deciding salaries for faculty members, but those analyzed sum up the significant ones quite comprehensively. When this data was plotted according to gender, the glaring $2905 pay disparity emerged, with a standard error of $701.

The report was clear in stating that a causality could not be defined, yet no alternative hypothesis was found that could justify this difference. Understandably, this discovery sparked much outrage, and the university was prompted to boost the salaries of all female faculty members by $2905 as of September 1st. Unfortunately, no compensation was made for inequities from previous years.

Overall, it’s great that the University of Waterloo took action to amend the problem, but should the institution be lauded, or lambasted? After all, the implications are quite damning. Why did the institution allow this phenomenon to exist in the first place? Waterloo’s reputation is sterling, being frequently boasted as an elite and innovative school that enables and challenges its students to tackle complex problems of the world and revolutionize the future. How can it promote such a sentiment when it can’t pay its female faculty properly? Whether this pay discrepancy was due to negligence or prejudice is moot; however, one thing is certain: Waterloo needs to scrutinize its own establishment more rigorously if it wants to live up to the ideals it claims to possess.