UTRGV completes gender equity survey, plans solutions

EDINBURG — University of Texas Rio Grande Valley leaders received the results of a study on gender equity in faculty salaries as the first step of bringing fairness in pay across its campuses, which for the most part still reflect salary practices of their legacy institutions — UT-Pan American and UT-Brownsville.

“If every so often you don’t kind of go back and take a look, these things just creep in there over time,” UTRGV President Guy Bailey said.

The survey, conducted by Chicago-based Huron Consulting Group, focused on whether gender had any impact in base salaries at UTRGV. On average, the survey found that men make a median salary of $67,464 while women make $59,253.

Bailey said this is part of larger study into salaries across the university that is expected to be completed within the next few months, but the university specifically requested a study focusing solely on gender equity.

University officials plan to set aside $3 million from the next fiscal year’s budget, which starts in October, for salary adjustments and pay raises solely for faculty and staff, excluding administrators at the dean level and above.

“Faculty and staff are what make UTRGV a success, and we are committed to compensation for our faculty and staff that is competitive with that of our peers,” Bailey wrote in a notice sent to faculty and staff in June. “As a down payment on this commitment and assuming we meet our enrollment projections, next fiscal year we will allocate more than $3M in compression and equity adjustments and merit increases to faculty and staff.”

Because base salaries come from state appropriations and tuition, Bailey said the projection is based on keeping enrollment high as the university is not in a position to increase tuition.

“We don’t expect much in the way of tuition increases,” Bailey said. “The best way to grow your tuition dollars is to grow your enrollment … we are very sensitive to what kids pay.”

The university used data retrieved in October 2015, which included 884 faculty members — 535 male and 349 female — from tenure and non-tenure track, the study states. Some of the variables considered in the survey include gender, base salary, job title, college, department, date of hire and campus of hire.

The two most impacted colleges are also the largest, the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Sciences, where the gap in average salaries reached $11,000. The worst departments were Literatures and Cultural and Biology, where women get paid more than $17,000 less on average.

UTRGV Provost Havidán Rodriguez said the university already started a follow-up evaluation per department to have a clear picture of the needs at each college. They are now looking into what these gaps can be attributed to as far as years in position, rank and merits.

“We have to see if the differences are really due to gender or if they are due to the discipline that you are in,” Rodriguez said. “Whether we like it or not, we do know for a fact that some disciplines make more than other disciplines … that’s just the way things function in the labor market.”

Rodriguez is meeting with College of Liberal Arts officials in the following weeks, he said, to go over the findings of the second study into each of the nine departments of the college and figure out how to solve the issue.

The same process will be done to address issues throughout all seven colleges and the more than 50 departments, Rodriguez said, tackling two colleges per semester as they hope to further analyze and solve any issues within a year.

“The idea is not to do the analysis and let it sit there for a while,” Rodriguez said. “The idea of doing it college by college is that we can make the adjustment as we move. We don’t have to wait to complete the study.”

This particular survey also fit a UT-System wide push by Chancellor Bill McRaven for all UT institutions to evaluate and solve gender equity issues. Rodriguez said all universities were informed last year, but at that point UTRGV had already started its own study.

Marie Mora, economics professor and co-founder of the UTRGV Women’s Faculty Network, which has about 459 faculty and staff members, said she was pleased with UTRGV’s initiative to conduct this survey and UT’s push to see an emphasis at every university.

The faculty network has been made part of the academic affairs executive council since before the transition to UTRGV, Mora said, allowing the network to stay informed and voice concerns and ideas to bring more equity to the institution. As of Friday, she had yet to see the survey, but she said she agrees with the next step to analyze individual departments.

“Women tend to be disproportionally misrepresented in lower ranks, so those positions are going to come at a lower rate,” Mora said. “You want to also account for experience or positions because that might explain some of it,S but it won’t explain all. What they want to look at is unexplained components.”

While there’s a push to begin correcting some of these salaries starting this fall, and continue throughout the year as they identify the issues at every department level, Bailey said they it could take three to five years to tackle the entire problem.

“This isn’t something that can happen overnight,” Bailey said. “Salaries got the way they are over a long period of time. So it will take about three to five years to begin correcting some of those, assuming we have good state appropriations and good enrollment.”

dperez-hernandez@themonitor.com