Women school leaders are paid less than men. It’s a big concern



Female principals earn about $ 1,000 less than their male colleagues each year, new research on principals’ pay – and this gap can persist even when these women run similar schools, do evaluations similar and work roughly the same number of hours as their male counterparts. .

But what drives this pay gap in school leadership is not so clear. While the factors underlying wage differences in the private sector – discrimination and personal choice, for example – may explain some of the differences, not all of them, said Jason Grissom, professor of public policy and education at Vanderbilt University.

Grissom is the lead author of Unequal Pay for Equal Work? Explain the gender gap in main pay ”, which was published this month in the Economics of Education Review.

Wage disparities can have huge implications for the profession if left unaddressed and could lead to difficulties in recruiting women for senior school leadership if women feel they are not being paid fairly. , or to women who leave the profession early, said Grissom.

And that kind of turnover is not good for students or staff. Previous research by Grissom and others has shown that primary turnover has a negative impact on both staff and students and has financial consequences for districts. who invest in the main preparation.

In addition, “there is a basic equity problem, even if there are no political consequences,” he said. “You have to be concerned about any case where it seems like workers are being treated differently, [and] their pay is different depending on a character such as gender, ethnicity, race, etc.

Women school leaders are both underrepresented and underpaid

While the percentage of women in school leadership has increased, women still represent a lower percentage of principals than in teaching staff. Women make up almost 80 percent of teachers, but just over half of principals.

“There is a representation gap, and factors like compensation could be contributing to it,” Grissom said. “This could be an obstacle to increasing the representation of women in the labor market.”

Grissom and her colleagues – Jennifer D. Timmer, Jennifer L. Nelson, and Richard SL Blissett – looked at key Missouri data from 1991 to 2016 to find out if there was a gender pay gap in management; how it has changed over time; and whether factors such as education, the type of school run by the principal or other characteristics that may explain the difference in salary.

The other possibility here is that there is discrimination when districts exercise their discretion over compensation offers; that women lose.

Jason Grissom, Professor of Public Policy and Education, Peabody College, Vanderbilt University

In addition to data from Missouri, the researchers drew on data from the National Center for Education Statistics’s School and Staff Survey for the years 1999-2000 and 2011-2012, as well as a sample survey of the 2015-2016 National Teacher and Principal Survey, when principals reported their wages before taxes.

Analysis of data from Missouri found that the gender pay gap had grown from an average of around $ 4,000 in 1991 to around $ 300 in 2005. But it had grown to around $ 3,000 by 2013. in 2016 (Women actually had a slight advantage during The Great Recession, they found.) Overall, the researchers found that female principals in the state earned about $ 1,450 less per year than male managers during the period studied.

And using national data, Grissom and his colleagues found that, on average, male managers earn $ 1,000 more than their female colleagues each year.

Is discretion in setting wages the culprit?

What is behind this disparity?

Men were already paid better as deputy managers, so it was likely that they would earn more than women when they entered management, theorized Grissom and his colleagues. Men were also more likely to run secondary schools, where principals generally earn more than those who run elementary schools.

And they also tended to earn more as teachers, through extra pay, like coaching sports or taking leadership roles. One possibility was that when districts hired men, they added incentives to compensate them for the income they would lose by forgoing training or other duties.

But when Grissom and his colleagues dug deeper, they found that these factors didn’t fully explain the difference. Even when men and women with the same level of experience run similar schools (e.g. high schools), the gap persists.

The normal dynamics of the labor market – with men more willing to move for a job and therefore to obtain increases for doing so – do not seem to hold true for managers. Neither the longer working hours, nor the higher education levels or quality, said Grissom. (Women school leaders tend to have a higher level of education.)

“We can say he’s not one of the usual suspects,” Grissom said. But the study “doesn’t tell us what it is. Of course, there is the possibility that there is discrimination in the setting of wages. But there are also possibilities which we cannot rule out, but which we cannot observe.

The researchers found that the pay gap existed even when districts had salary scales for directors.

This means that districts still have a lot of leeway to offer incentives, and these tend to favor men more than women.

“Even when there is a schedule, districts don’t have to follow it to the letter,” said Grissom.

It could be that men negotiate differently and thus get higher wages, he said.

“But the other possibility here is that there is discrimination when districts exercise their discretion over compensation offers; that women lose, ”he said. “I think the first step is to recognize that these gaps exist, and then the question is what is the right approach to address the fact that although in percentage terms it looks like the gaps are small, .. in absolute value, the differences count. The difference of $ 1,400 “is not trivial for someone’s paycheque.”

Grissom said future exploration of what drives the gender pay gap, what those gaps look like in other states, and how pay affects measured outcomes – like leadership turnover and satisfaction. at work – can lead to a better understanding of the problem.


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