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CAUT Bulletin Archives

April 2006

CAUT Survey Shows PSE Gender Inequity Widespread

CAUT has released a new report that shows underrepresentation of women among academic staff remains a persistent and troubling feature of universities and colleges in Canada

Women are still seriously under-represented in the academic workforce, less likely to have tenure, more likely to hold part-time and limited-term appointments, as well as earn less money.

These are some of the key findings in CAUT’s Women in the Academic Workforce survey, which looks at the representation, appointment status and salaries of female academics in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United States and the United Kingdom.

Tellingly, the survey finds that among the countries studied, Canada has the lowest overall share of women in the academic workforce.

CAUT president Loretta Czernis says there is a pressing need for more aggressive initiatives to correct the gender imbalance in Canadian universities and colleges.

“University and college administrators need to make better use of existing employment equity policies and explore ways to create a more family-friendly work environment,” she said. “Governments also have a role to play in this by ensuring their university and college funding programs actively promote gender equity.”

Czernis said a good start would be redesigning the Canada Research Chairs program to ensure greater gender balance in the awarding of chairs. She said the program had to date awarded only 20 per cent of the chairs to women.

Among the survey findings: Women made up less than one-third (32 per cent) of Canada’s full-time academic workforce in 2003– 2004, up from 20 per cent a decade ago, but Canada lags behind other countries, where women make up 40 per cent of full-time faculty in the U.S., 36 per cent in Australia and New Zealand and 35 per cent in the U.K.

Women are particularly under-represented in the most senior academic ranks throughout the countries surveyed. About one-third (34 per cent) of Canada’s associate professors are women, while less than one in five full professors (18 per cent) are women. The survey reports the number of female full professors in the U.K. at 13 per cent, New Zealand at 14 per cent, Australia at 19 per cent and in U.S. public institutions at nearly 30 per cent. By contrast, women make up the majority of full-time academic staff without rank, such as lecturers and instructors.

Czernis says this is partly explained by the longer time required to progress to the senior ranks, as women have only relatively recently entered the academic workforce in significant numbers. In addition, female faculty on average are less likely to hold a PhD than their male colleagues.

Employment Status

Throughout the countries surveyed, women are more likely to be appointed without tenure and to hold part-time and non-tenure track positions. In Canada, seven in 10 male academic staff have tenure, while 18 per cent are in positions leading to tenure. But of all female faculty, fewer than 40 per cent have tenure, while 25 per cent are on the tenure track.

The overall share of faculty with tenure in the U.S. is noticeably lower than in Canada due to the larger and growing numbers of non-tenured positions in the American system. However, it is notable that the tenure gap between men and women is smaller in the U.S., where more than one-half of men and 36 per cent of women have tenure. While the survey notes there are no reliable figures on part-time faculty employment in Canada, it is estimated that in 1997–1998, women accounted for a larger proportion of part-time (42 per cent) than full-time (26 per cent) faculty members.

Pay Inequity

In Canada, there has been only modest improvement in narrowing the gender pay gap over the past decade. In 1993, female academics on average earned 17.6 per cent less than their male colleagues. By 2003, this gap had narrowed to 13.4 per cent. The survey reports notable variations by discipline, with the widest pay gap in engineering and applied sciences, and social sciences.

The gender pay gap in Canada is narrower, however, than in the other countries surveyed, which might be partly explained by high unionization rates of Canadian faculty and collective agreements setting out common salary scales. In 2002–2003, the overall gender salary gap in the U.K. was 14.9 per cent, at U.S. public institutions 20.4 per cent and at private institutions 24.2 per cent.