Monday, March 19, 2007

For What I'm Worth

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.


Anonymous said...

How do you get this list of salaries? I am an assistant professor at a research university and am very curious about my salary compared to my peers. Particular given that they are all married men with kids, about five years older than I am.


Anonymous said...

I bet your "unit" idea is right. I know for myself, since I'm married, faculty have discussed that in funding decisions, so I had to go on the offensive and ask why that was relevant. Good luck trying to get this resolved.

Anonymous said...

I would look very hard at leaving. In my area (applied mathematics) there are also almost zero senior females and those that do exist are in high demand for both good and bad reasons. In my department we just worked very hard to get a new female hire who then (justifiably) demanded a spousal hire. The long and the short of it is that they did not come -- her current institution offered them gigantic salary increases. It is a crappy game to play but one we all shoud (or, at least accept) until the administration develops better tools for faculty evaluation. Right now large merit increases come mostly from competing offers.

Anonymous said...

If I were in your position in a company, I would use this list to specifically argue for a raise. You have specific accomplishments and productivity to cite. You have every reason to expect to be compensated on the same level of your colleagues. You have proof that you are not. There is simply no reason that this should continue, and honestly, I think your university would have a problem seeing that sort of breakdown in comparison with a productivity scale too. It doesn't matter if you're being seen as a unit or not: that's a bullshit excuse and everyone knows it. Do you two only contribute as a unit? Of course not. And honestly, I think you should be given MORE money because you're a unit. Not less. Synergy.

Above posters are right, but I wouldn't leave till they refuse you the money, and none of this whining about budget. It's not like someone doesn't see these numbers every year like you just did.

Anonymous said...

FSP, I agree with anonymous. Two years ago, armed with knowledge of what my peers were making (I'm in industry), I said to my boss "I am severely undercompensated with respect to my peers" and he couldn't argue with that. And I got an 11% raise (yes, I was that severely undercompensated!). You don't need to wait for the offer from another institution to negotiate for a reasonable merit increase -- especially when you have the data in front of you.

I highly recommend "Women Don't Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide" for some good ideas on negotiating strategies in male dominated environments.

Female Science Professor said...

to the first anonymous commenter -- It probably varies from state to state on how to get these numbers. The data used to be stored in the reference section of libraries, but now the data are online in many places. Try the human resources website of your university, or ask a reference librarian.

Anonymous said...

Get a lawyer.