- Illustration by Eli Scheinholtz
The University’s administration exhibited an intriguing quality in 2013: a large amount of female representation.
Twenty-five of the 41 top positions at the University, including three of the highest positions — president, provost and executive vice president for medical affairs — were held by women in 2013.
Though President Emerita Mary Sue Coleman has since retired and Ora Pescovitz, executive vice president for medical affairs, stepped down last year, women hold about half of the University’s executive officer seats.
However, data from the University’s 2014 salary report, released in December, indicates that only two women held a spot on the list of top 10 highest-paid University executives.
The University’s compensation philosophy specifically outlines an aim to “(a)ttract, retain, reward and motivate the productivity and commitment of highly qualified, diverse faculty and staff.” The statement also promises the University does not “practice, or tolerate, unlawful discrimination in pay.”
This piece examines whether a discrepancy in base salaries between male and female executives exists within the University’s administration. Doing so required extensive data analysis — namely, comparing the salaries of more than 40 positions across the University.
These positions include, but are not limited to, the executive vice presidents, deans and provosts. This article also analyzes the salaries of executives at 11 other top colleges with which the University competes for faculty.
Ultimately, this article attempts to determine whether or not instances of comparatively higher salaries for male executives are anomalies, or if there is a traceable wage gap within the University’s leadership. Simply — is the University adhering to its own philosophy?
Though salaries from a sample of a dozen peer institutions appear to illustrate wage discrepancies based on gender, a Michigan Daily analysis of compensation for top University officials shows the gap may not be statistically significant among University executives.
The Provost: A case study
Perhaps the most notable salary trend in the University administration is that of the provost.
In 2006, Teresa Sullivan became the University’s provost after having served as a vice provost, vice president and graduate dean for the University of Texas at Austin. She had also been the executive vice chancellor for academic affairs for the entire University of Texas system.
Sullivan’s base salary at the University was $340,000. By the time she stepped down in 2010, it had grown to $366,331. President Emerita Coleman appointed Philip Hanlon to succeed Sullivan when she departed to assume the University of Virginia presidency in 2010.
Hanlon worked at the University as a math professor and was promoted to associate dean for planning and finance in LSA in 2001. He also served as the vice provost of academic and budgetary affairs from 2004 to 2010.
As provost, he received a starting salary of $470,000, which increased to $509,292 by 2012.
Hanlon’s starting salary was more than $100,000 greater than Sullivan’s ending salary, and it increased by an additional $100,000 in half the time it had taken for Sullivan’s to increase $20,000.
At the time of Hanlon’s promotion, Kelly Cunningham, then a University spokesperson who now serves as a special counsel to the provost, said the wage discrepancy was due to higher provost salaries among peer institutions across the board.
“As is often the case, the University Human Resources Office conducted phone surveys among peer institutions to determine the appropriate market rate,” Cunningham wrote in a 2010 e-mail interview with the Daily.
Hanlon left to serve as the president of Dartmouth College in 2013, at which point current University Provost Martha Pollack was promoted to the position.
Before coming to the University in 2000, Pollack worked at the University of Pittsburgh as a professor of computer science and intelligent systems and as director of the University’s Intelligent Systems Program. She came to the University as a professor of computer science and engineering, and served as an associate chair for that department from 2004 to 2007. In 2007, she became dean of the School of Information, and held that role until 2010. Before her appointment to serve as provost, she was vice provost for academic and budgetary affairs from 2010 to 2013 — the same position Hanlon held before his promotion.
When Pollack took office, the provost’s salary decreased by nearly $60,000 — her salary, which opened at $450,000, has since been raised to $460,800. This is still less than Hanlon’s starting salary in 2010.
Hanlon held a place on the top 10 list of highest paid employees for each year of his tenure. Sullivan never made the list; Pollack did just once, in 2013.
When asked about this discrepancy in an interview last month, University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said Hanlon’s higher salary stemmed from his level of experience — when he assumed the provost role in 2010, he had been a vice provost for six years. Pollack had only served as vice provost for three years.
Fitzgerald added that Hanlon’s experience as an associate dean in LSA also contributed critical skills, noting that the college alone is larger than some universities.
“It was a reflection of what he was bringing to that position,” Fitzgerald said.
Furthermore, Pollack’s contract when she took the position of provost was only for two years — comparable to the number of years interim executives often serve. Fitzgerald said this shorter-term appointment, combined with previous experience that was less extensive than Hanlon’s, could be the reason for her lower salary.
Pollack’s contract was renewed through 2018 at the University’s Board of Regents meeting in December 2014. Fitzgerald noted that executive officers can expect a pay increase with reappointment.
“I would expect that Provost Pollack … when her reappointment takes effect, she would probably have a pay increase along with that extension,” he said.
However, not all interims receive lower pay. When Suellyn Scarnecchia, a former University general counsel, stepped down from the position in 2012, for example, the female interim who replaced her received a starting salary equivalent to Scarnecchia’s.
Pollack’s case is not alone in showcasing pay discrepancies. Michael Johns, the interim executive vice president of medical affairs, earns 2 percent more than Pescovitz did in that role. He earns $769,080, while Pescovitz received $753,805.
In reference to this raise, Fitzgerald said Johns’ previous experience as the executive vice president for health affairs at Emory University made him a remarkably qualified interim.
Both Pollack and Hanlon were vice provosts for academic and budgetary affairs. Pollack had three years fewer experience at this job than Hanlon. Prior to that, for three years each, Hanlon was an association dean for planning and finance at LSA, while Pollack was a dean at the School of Information. Hanlon was a mathematics professor before that — a faculty member, not administrator. Pollack was an associate chair for computer science and engineering. She directed an engineering program at the University of Pittsburgh prior to joining the University’s faculty in 2000.
Before taking the provost position, Pollack had 11 years of administrative experience, and Hanlon had nine years. Presented with this summary, as well as the fact that interims do not always receive pay decreases, Fitzgerald said he had no further comment.
How the University decides salaries
Both Fitzgerald and Laurita Thomas, associate vice president for human resources, said setting salaries is a complex process.
Thomas said University President Mark Schlissel ultimately decides salaries for top administrators, such as the University’s vice presidents or the athletic director, because they report directly to him. The president may consult with human resources or an outside search firm for additional assistance in determining salaries, Thomas said. She added that the Board of Regents determines the president’s salary.
Thomas said, overall, salaries are decided by the individual or body that supervises the employee. These decisions are influenced by an array of factors.
“The person doing the hiring looks at market data, the knowledge the candidate brings and their performance data,” Thomas said. “The hirer establishes values, comes up with a fair range for a salary with those values and the hirer and the candidate negotiate within that range.”
These market rates are a significant factor in determining pay, Thomas said. Because the University competes with other collegiate institutions and private sector corporations for faculty and administration, it must ensure that its compensation package is comparable.
“All executive positions are market sensitive,” Thomas said. “We depend on how fast the market changes. We want top leaders in this country, and we have to be very market sensitive in these roles.”
This means salaries are determined in a way that retains employees and attracts new ones. Both goals are meant to ensure the University touts high-caliber people who do high-caliber work.
In the case of a new employee, other salary factors include but are not limited to the candidate’s background and experience, and the costs required to bring that candidate to the University.
Studies: Gender wage gaps exist, even if it’s unintentional
Whatever explanations there may be for salary discrepancies between those who have filled the University’s provost position in the last nine years, the female provosts were paid less than the male provost.
At the University, the top 10 highest base salaries have belonged to mostly men since 2008. In the last seven years, men have held 80 percent of the top-paid positions — including vice president for medical affairs, chief financial officer, vice president for development and dean of the Law School.
Exceptions to this trend include President Emerita Coleman, whose salary, not including bonuses, peaked at $603,357; and Ora Pescovitz, who served as EVPMA from 2009 to 2014 and whose ending salary was $753,805. (Coleman declined several offers for bonuses from the regents throughout her tenure.)
Fitzgerald re-emphasized that salaries are based on individual qualifications and the responsibilities required of a given position. Neither of these criteria, he said, favor a certain gender.
“If you are looking at the top 10 positions in any given year and what those positions are, it’s really more of a function of the market for those specific positions,” Fitzgerald said. “And I do not believe that it represents or indicates any sort of gender bias on the part of the University. I think it’s more of a function of the people recruited for these high level positions, that it’s unique to those individuals.”
Nationally, many studies have attributed trends in pay gaps to the existence of gender-based biases in different fields of work. Economics Prof. Martha Bailey, a research associate for the National Bureau of Economic Research, has extensively studied labor economics and gender wage gaps. She said research affirms the existence of wage discrimination based on gender.
“I don’t think there’s any shortage of evidence that there’s gender discrimination in the world,” she said.
Hard numbers confirm that female job applicants to jobs tend to be offered lower salaries than their male equivalents.
In 2012, the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a report that found female applicants for lab manager positions at Yale University were given lower ratings and offered lower salaries than their male equivalents.
A similar study out of Skidmore College in 2014 found that women in faculty positions at the college for STEM fields were seen as less competent and given lower salaries than their male counterparts.
“I would not be surprised at all if there’s a difference in salary between men and women at the University, even after accounting for rank and years of experience and publication record and a variety of other types of things,” Bailey said.
Is the provost example universal?
Though anomalies do exist when comparing female and male salaries among University executives, compiled data of 40 executive position salaries from 2002 to 2015 indicates that there is not a statistical difference in pay between men and women at the University in the same position.
The data was compiled using the salaries of all University vice president positions, deans, UMHS leaders, directors and assistant vice provosts. Originally, nearly 60 positions were compiled. However, some were ruled out either because they had changed too much to be comparable through a decade period or because they had been created during that period.
According to regression analysis — conducted by LSA senior Jacob Light, who is majoring in math and economics, and vetted by Bailey, the labor economist and economics professor — average salaries and gender do not have a strong relationship. In other words, gender is not a reliable factor in predicting salary changes at the University.
While women have received fewer significant increases than men, Light found, the data does not suggest that women are less likely to receive larger boosts in pay than their male counterparts.
The data was controlled for gender, position, years with the title, inflation and the status of the incumbent — if they were an interim or first-year candidate. Analyses focused on percent changes from year to year in each position, overall percent change in the position base pay and the genders of each executive in each position.
Comparing with competitors
A University slide provided by Fitzgerald outlines the 10 top schools with which the University competes for faculty: University of California, Berkeley; University of California, Los Angeles; University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill; University of Texas at Austin; University of Chicago; Harvard University; Stanford University; University of Pennsylvania; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Columbia University.
The Daily included The University of Virginia, another peer public institution, in the analysis to increase sample size.
Calculations show that the average disparity between female and male salaries at these 11 top colleges and the University shows that women earn 96 cents for every dollar a man makes — 3.4 percent less. Furthermore, these top universities fill their most prominent positions with mostly men. Analysis revealed that 37 percent of executive employees were female. Sixty-three percent were men.
These calculations are based on two data sets: the 2013 list of salaries reported on the public colleges’ respective state databases, and the 2011 list of private school salaries reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education, the only year for which data was available. Private schools are not required to disclose their salary database to taxpayers, whereas public schools are.
However, to provide full disclosure, salary figures were not available for every position at every school, either because certain positions, such as vice president for student life, do not exist at every school or because figures were simply not included in available salary disclosures.
On average, salaries at the University were 4 percent higher than those of their counterpart institutions. However, a gender breakdown revealed a contrast: While male University employees earned an average of 8 percent more than their competitors at other schools, female employees earned 1 percent more.
More discrepancies appear in a comparison of average male and female executive position salaries.
Women serving as deans for these universities’ LSA equivalents earned 31 percent less than their male counterparts; while the men earned an average of $426,000, the women earned an average of $295,000. In a 10-year span, this means a man would earn more than $1 million more than his female equivalent.
Female vice presidents for development earned 19 percent less than men, and women in medical dean roles earned 12.3 percent less than males. Double-digit discrepancies also existed for the positions of executive vice presidents for medical affairs and vice president of development.
There was not a single executive position with fewer than three men total out of the 12 surveyed colleges. Perhaps the most glaring example was in 2013, when each of the 12 colleges had a male provost.
Presidential salaries seem to be higher for women. Excluding University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann, whose total compensation is over $2 million, female presidential salaries were $628,638 on average, whereas men earned $677,000. Gutmann’s salary is the highest of the sampled institutions and comparatively high even among peer institutions in the Ivy League.
Otherwise, in only two positions does a female majority exist — vice president for student life and human resources director.
A few positions reflect a female pay advantage. Women serving as general counsels appear to earn more than men, averaging $450,000 in comparison to the male $380,000. This statistic may also be skewed — on average, public schools pay their general counsels 30.4 percent less than do private schools. Six of the total 12 surveyed institutions are public and in this sample, each public institution except the University had a male incumbent.
Female vice presidents for student life at public institutions earn about 11 percent more than their male counterparts. Two men compared to four women held that title. Only public institutions were considered, since only two out of six private institutions considered in this study employed vice presidents for student life.
In summary, across the University and its 11 competitor institutions, statistics are clearly weighted in favor of male executives, both in terms of pure quantity and average salary. Even in cases where it appears that women have the upper hand as far as average salary, those positions don’t seem to represent the whole picture.
Cumulative data from 2002 to 2015 shows there is not a statistical difference in pay between men and women at the University in the same executive positions.
However, data across numerous institutions of higher education indicates that men tend to earn more than do women, and men tend to fill executive positions more than do women.
Additionally, because men have held 80 percent of the University’s top-paid positions since 2008, it is quite possible that the problem is not receiving adequate pay when holding a position, but acquiring a high-paying position to begin with.