WKU works to close wage gap between females, males


woman makes on average only 77 cents. 

On WKU’s campus, female professors average over $2,000 less than their male counterparts. While that number is better than the national average, it’s much improved from the nearly $6,000 deficit in 2008-09, and half of the gender deficit WKU had among full-time professors in the 2011-12 school year.

Frequently used reasons for the wage gap range from lack of experience in the workplace, maternity leaves, physical distinctions and extreme claims — those implying women are less intelligent or capable than men. 

For Deborah Wilkins, WKU’s chief counsel and one of a handful of women on the university’s Administrative Council, she sees wage disparity stemming more from women not asking for raises rather than outright gender biases. 

“I don’t know that it’s all discrimination,” she said. “I think part of it is a factor of women having less experience in the work force … Over time, we should see these disparities end because one of the reasons the Equal Pay Act was passed was because women were being paid less was the belief that they had husbands supporting her, so she didn’t need as much money. That was 30 or 40 years ago. Now that women have been in the workforce as long as we have and doing things we didn’t do 50 years ago, that disparity shouldn’t really be there.” 

Wilkins represents a surprising national statistic: almost all of the chief counsels for Kentucky universities are women. 

“I feel like I’ve been blessed and lucky with who I’ve worked for, but I know those disparities still exist,” she said. “They absolutely do.”

A developing trend in the equal pay fight revolve around the belief that women simply don’t ask for raises. Nationally, this idea was brought to public awareness by former Bank of America executive Sallie Krawcheck, who oversaw more than $2 trillion in assets before leaving the finance industry for a personal endeavor. In her speech presented on April 7, Krawcheck encouraged women to consciously put aside their risk-averse nature and boldly ask for more. 

“What I’ve found over time is that when it would come to bonus time or raise time, I would hear from the gentlemen, ‘I want to make X,'” she said. “I don’t think I ever heard from a woman who worked for me, ‘I want to make X.’ And research shows, men ask and women don’t.”

For years, studies looking to explore the issues surrounding gender disparity are frequently seen as one-sided, looking through the scope of biases rather than raw data.

In the last several years, countless studies have set out to isolate those variables and find what the bottom line means for women in the workforce. 

A recent study by labor economists Lawrence Kahn and Francine Blau of Cornell University removed the aforementioned factors from the equation. They removed traces of education differences, employment lengths, and job duties to find base numbers of and handful of business and corporations. Kahn and Blau found an average 9 percent deficit between female and male workers, all other factors aside. 

At best, that still means women make 91 cents to every man’s dollar, solely based on unexplainable reasoning.

Comparatively, WKU’s gap is on similar scales with those of other universities, but over recent years, employees of the Hill have seen notable increases to close the gap that other universities have not. 

At University of Kentucky’s College of Education, 56 percent of full-time faculty are females, as reported by the (UK) President’s Commission on Women’s study. Where males are equally represented among the departmental ranks (roughly 30 percent in assistant teachers, associate professors, and full professors), the females don’t see the equal distribution.