Striving for equity

Striving for equity McGill University

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McGill Reporter
June 7, 2001 - Volume 33 Number 17
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Striving for equity

Many female academics will soon have reason to celebrate. Not only will those at McGill who are underpaid in relation to their male counterparts receive a salary increase, but female academics outside the University who are hoping to be hired at McGill may stand a better chance of finding a position.

Vice-Principal (Academic) Luc Vinet recently issued a memorandum to all deans expressing his concern that during the past three years only 25% of all new hires have been female.

In order "to attract highly qualified female academics," he recommended that, in future, all departments must produce a plan for soliciting female candidates (including contacting them); interview all female candidates who fall within the top 10% of applicants (if the short list doesn't already include a female candidate); and, where a woman is not hired, write a report listing the number of female candidates and explaining why none were selected.

It's a move that pleases Gloria Tannenbaum, professor of pediatrics and of neurology and neurosurgery. "I think the name of the game still has to be excellence first, but I think more of an effort has to be made," says Tannenbaum, who was on the employment equity committee 10 years ago that made similar recommendations.

Dean of Engineering John Gruzleski commends Vinet's request, noting that his own faculty has offered positions to about five women in the past month. He adds, however, that it's not an easy task locating women at the end stages of their PhDs and competition to attract them is stiff.

Any new female hires ought to be paid what their male counterpart would in the same department. Historically, however, that hasn't always been the case and Tannenbaum is "very encouraged" by the announcement two weeks ago of the University's three-year plan to correct the inequalities in salary between some of its female and male academics.

"I think this is the first administration to acknowledge the gender bias," she says. "I sent [Principal Bernard] Shapiro a letter congratulating him."

Beginning this year, there will be $350,000 in the "anomaly envelope" to be used exclusively to redress the salary inequalities identified in the Academic Salary Policy Sub-Committee Task Force, created by Vinet two years ago, which made its recommendations last fall.

The money will be allocated to the deans of the different faculties, in proportion to the number of their full-time female academic staff and the salary differentials found in the study.

The faculties of arts, medicine and music, for instance, had the greatest gender differentials, with women earning an average $5,654 (range was $4,821 - $21,124), $4,230 ($6,514 - $26,525) and $7,013 ($3,927 - $16,714) less, respectively, than their male counterparts.

When the statistical analysis of the University's 1,043 (in December 1999) full-time assistant, associate and full professors was done, the comparison was made between men and women using the variables faculty, age, years of service and number of years since earning their PhD. Of the 248 women, 62 were found to "merit further scrutiny" because of the unfairness of their salaries. So far, according to Tannenbaum, 11 of these have had salary increases.

While the faculties of music, medicine and arts were highlighted in the report, Tannenbaum emphasizes that that doesn't mean that there aren't salary inequalities in other faculties; it's just that music, medicine and arts have the highest percentage of women. In the faculties of science, education and agricultural and environmental sciences, on the other hand, gender didn't play a significant role in salary differentials.

According to the task force's recommendations, $975,000 will be necessary to correct differentials. Associate Vice-Principal (Academic Staff and Planning) Stuart Price says that after allocating this year's $350,000, the University will conduct another study to see the effect of that sum and allocate more money, accordingly, over the following two years.

Price underlines that the differences in salaries between male and female academics at McGill are, overall, not very significant.

"Taking all the average differences, we calculated that to totally eliminate all differences would cost less than $1 million (in 1999 dollars), which is less than one per cent of the total academic salary budget of $130 million."

He also emphasizes that in addition to the criteria mentioned above, the University considers the "merit history," which is based on teaching, research or administrative performance, of the individual. "Not all professors of the same age should get the same salary," he says.

While the task force looked only at full-time tenured or tenure-track employees, Price says that full- and part-time faculty lecturers will also be considered by their deans. "McGill is committed to getting rid of the [gender] differences."

While pay equality is what the University seeks for its academic staff, pay equity, or "equal pay for different but equivalent work," as defined by Quebec's Pay Equity Act, is what McGill is working to deadline on for the rest of its roughly 6,000 employees.

This week marks the end of stage one in the four-part process that must, by law, be completed by November 21, 2001, by which date salary adjustments must begin. If the deadline is missed, the University loses the $3.9 million set aside by the government to help McGill adjust its salaries. Under the Pay Equity Act, the salary adjustments must be complete before November 21, 2005.

As of yesterday, virtually everyone may visit the Pay Equity Committee web site ( and enter her name in order to see just how her job has been classified -- as being predominantly (at least 60%) male or female, or neutral -- and defined according to tasks, responsibilities, qualifications and compensation scale.

The point of this first stage is to lay the groundwork for future evaluation -- stage two of the pay equity process -- of each job classification, in order that disparities between predominantly female and predominantly male job categories of similar description be rectified.

First, however, each and every employee must review his or her "role profile," which describes the general job family, the key roles and typical functions. The jobs are classified under seven families -- administration, finance, human resources, information systems and technology, logistics and facilities (which includes such sectors as parking, security, the computer store and the Faculty Club), student and academic services, and communications (which includes development and alumni relations).

The employee then has 60 days to validate the description and is at liberty to check the role profiles of other employees, explains Jean-Claude Provost, human relations manager of salary administration.

For employees wanting to compare their job classification with other employees they consider to do similar jobs, one may enter the current job title, then pick a title of job class. "You might want to see who's matched with what job classification. If you then think your job isn't matched well, you can check for another role profile and enter that on the comment sheet."

When the pay equity working groups, such as MUNASA, MUNACA and trades and services groups, have reviewed all comment sheets that are in disagreement with the role profiles, it then sends the results to the employee and supervisor. At the end of the process, the PEC then turns to the arduous task of evaluation -- giving a numerical value -- to the role profile. The University has hired an American consulting firm, the Hay Group, which has had experience in helping firms evaluate the work of their employees in order to comply with the local pay equity legislation.

Speaking last month at a presentation on the process of validation and evaluation of job classifications, Vice-Principal (Information Systems and Technology) Anthony Masi, a former member of the PEC, called the Pay Equity Act "a terrible law" in terms of the process involved in complying, but one which makes us "pay attention to the details," a process which was going to be necessary, in any case, in order that the University continue its reform of the compensation process.

PEC member Susan Czarnocki noted that a very important aspect of this whole process is that McGill employees will have to change their mindset away from the individual and confidential job description to a public job family description.

She sees that as a step forward, not only for pay equity but for advancement. "The point is to see that what you do is analogous to what's being done elsewhere. In other words, you can see that with your particular set of skills, you might do any number of 15 jobs."

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