The price of equality
Are women just as powerful as the men on campus at UF?
For one distinguished professor, the answer is 'no.'
By Heather Flynn
After 11 years of filing complaints and asking the UF administration to look into the case, one of the most senior professors at UF finally received recompense for the many books published, classes taught and committees served.
The anthropology professor says that every instructor who met the administration’s standards of productivity deserved the same compensation.
Dr. Maxine Margolis argued she was paid less than her male counterparts because of the simple fact that she was a woman and says her case was only one example of discrimination based on gender that occurs at UF.
“I always felt that I was not alone,” Margolis says. “I was just an example. My greatest regret was that it didn’t become a class action suit.”
According to 2003-2004 UF statistics from the Office of Institutional Research, female professors at UF make on average 83.7 percent of what male professors at the same level make - that’s the price of a new car every year that female professors are not being paid.
In 1990, Margolis noticed she received $10,000 less than the male professors even though she was the highest paid woman in the anthropology department.
After careful review, a committee set up to investigate her complaint determined that she should be paid at least $9,000 more. The president of UF at the time, John Lombardi, approved a $3,000 increase in her salary. After this inquiry, Margolis was not asked to serve on any more committees, which she says directly related to her case.
According to the same data from the Office of Institutional Research, there were 1,433 more full-time male professors than female professors in 2003. When the statistics are examined closely, they show that in higher-ranking positions such as “Distinguished Professor,” one woman competes with 34 men. The 154 regular, female professors compete for resources, time and money with 940 of their male counterparts.
The Director of the Center for Women’s Studies and Gender Research, Dr. Angel Kwolek-Folland, says she sees the discrepancies in pay but also cites the actual number of women employed as professors.
“The pattern you find on this campus of relatively smaller numbers of women the higher up you go, discrepancy in pay—all of these things are pretty typical of comparable institutions,” Kwolek-Folland says. “UF is no worse than anywhere else. On the other hand, it’s no better.”
In 1998, after a second committee found that Margolis was still paid less than required but was not given a pay increase, she took her case to court and settled for an undisclosed amount in September 2001.
“Clearly the problem hasn’t been solved. Clearly it’s a serious problem,” Margolis says. “It’s against the law. They can make up whatever excuses, but discrimination based on sex is illegal. Aside from the fact, it’s unfair.”
Women’s studies and anthropology professor Stacey Langwick explained that the administration considers what level of education the person has completed, how many of their writings have been published, how many awards and grants they have received and the number of classes they teach. If these are the reasons some women are paid less than men, she says there might not be a problem.
“If that’s not true then we have a question, something that needs to be addressed,” Langwick says.
Nationally known for her work in anthropology, Margolis says these stipulations did not apply to her. When the case was settled, more than 15 of her books and articles were published; she’d taught at least 13 different classes and received eight major grants.
After earning her Ph.D. in 1987 in women’s studies at the University of Minnesota, Kwolek-Folland began her directorship at UF four years ago. She says that the advancement of women in higher academic and administrative positions is an indicator of how women are valued on a campus.
She says she feels overextended because she has been asked to be on more than 17 committees that she feels are just looking for a woman to fill the spot.
If discrimination has occurred within the administration at UF does it happen anywhere else?
Factors other than numbers should be considered when examining gender discrimination. Langwick says that typically women have been discouraged from going into the hard sciences such as math and engineering, which tend to pay more than fields such as liberal arts.
“I think that one of the reasons that often you end up with more male professors earning more are deep historical issues that women face from a younger age,” Langwick says. “If there is institutionalized bias against women advancing in scientific careers and that’s the reason there are more men than women in the sciences, that’s quite an issue.”
As someone who has been in the workforce and returned to school, third-year liberal arts and science major Sarah Meltzer, 26, says she knows what discrimination and bias feels like. She saw it when her boss was promoted, taking the credit for all the work she had done. Meltzer admits she might be a bit jaded, but one day, she would like to see as many women as men studying the hard sciences and being appreciated for their work.
Jenny McNally, a student leader in many on-campus organizations such as IDEAL and Service Ambassadors, does not see herself as a feminist and has never felt discriminated against at UF. She says women should be given equal opportunities to do what they want.
“I’ve never had a problem doing anything I wanted to do,” McNally says.
As part of Service Ambassadors, McNally promotes the idea of service learning, encouraging students to volunteer to help others and potentially learn more about their field of interest. McNally says there is a myth that men are not involved in service, but actually they are, just not in the traditional sense.
“Men are the directors. Men tend to take higher positions in non-profits, looking for money and writing grants,” she says. “Stereotypically, they are not as nurturing. You may not see them because women are doing the direct service.”
McNally says men occupying directorial positions were typical of the entire campus.
“A couple females step up and have stronger personalities,” McNally says.
However, a female has never been able to step up to the top position at UF. There has never been a female university president, and there have only been three female student body presidents. Charlotte Mather, the first female student body president, was elected in 1984.
“I say that it’s ridiculous that a school as advanced as UF can’t have equality,” Meltzer says. “UF should be setting an example.”
Female faculty such as Kwolek-Folland wonder what can be done to address these discrepancies.
Recently, a task force of faculty members was assembled to gauge the concerns of all faculty at UF—quality of life issues such as pay and even daycare, Kwolek-Folland says.
She says though family concerns men as well, she thinks society has identified women as the major caretakers. Kwolek-Folland said that most people still saw childcare as a woman’s issue, though some men were equally as interested in taking an active role in their family.
“At the University of Wisconsin, every time a new building is built, one of the factors to be incorporated in the decision process of the new building is where there will be access to the people who work in that building to good daycare,” she says. “That’s a major policy statement of that institution about a commitment to family.”
The solution to women’s predicament at UF, Margolis says, is to conduct a study on all the issues affecting women at this campus. An Indiana University study outlined every area that women were not up to par with men. Margolis says the only way to begin to make changes is to identify what needs to change.
No one will argue that women have made significant advances in the past few decades, but the numbers don’t lie. Margolis’ case was just one example of discrimination that still occurs campus-wide. Though many female students have been encouraged in their leadership at UF, examples of gender discrimination still takes place. As Margolis and others say, the only way to put an end to this type of injustice is to take a close look at why women and men are not being treated equally and decide the necessary course of action from there.