Today I did something that I knew in advance was guaranteed to annoy me: I acquired the publically-available list of faculty salaries in my department. I could have done this at any time in the past decade or so, but never cared to. Now it turns out that it is useful information for me to know what is possible for a salary range, in preparation for negotiations about whether to stay at this university or go to another one.
Did it surprise me that my most coeval male colleague makes $11k/year more than I do? Yes, the magnitude of the difference surprised me, but I am not surprised that he makes more than I do. For the most part, salary correlates with productivity and prestige, scaled with seniority (or time spent as an administrator). My husband and I are both outliers on the low side (salary seems low in the context of our seniority/productivity), and there is one outlier on the high side -- a long-time unproductive senior faculty member who makes a much higher salary than most others in the department. He's up there with the big guys in terms of salary, despite decades of not having grants, not publishing etc.; and he has never been an administrator nor has he ever been recruited by another university. At my present rate, I would never attain his salary.
My husband and I mused about whether our salaries are unusually low compared to our peer group of faculty because the previous department chair considered us as a 'unit'. Our two faculty salaries combined might have seemed large to him (especially since his wife doesn't work?), and he kept both our salaries lower than the average (but the combined sum was higher than most -- but not all! -- of the other individual faculty salaries). It's just a hypothesis, but it might explain why, year after year, our merit raises are smaller than those of colleagues who are less productive.
I can't say I'm glad I know all these salary numbers now, but the data will be very useful.
2 months ago