Summary: Feb. 27th, 2018 Discussion

Megan Frederickson led a discussion on the gender gap in faculty salaries. The gender pay gap is an ongoing problem in many workplaces, and universities are no exception. It persists despite legislation and other efforts aimed at closing the gap, and even though the principle of “equal pay for equal work” is fairly uncontroversial.

With the aim of improving awareness of this issue among Canadian academics, Megan wrote an article on the gender pay gap at Canadian universities that was published by The Conversation and re-published by Macleans.

Briefly, Megan analyzed publicly available data from several sources to measure the gender pay gap at Canadian universities and explore its causes:

1) She used Statistics Canada data on faculty salaries to get a Canada-wide perspective on the gender pay gap. This revealed that the gap between male and female faculty salaries at the University of Toronto is $23,275 a year, or 14%. Also, Canada’s research-intensive universities, known as the U15, tend to have larger gender pay gaps than other institutions. Megan made her code publicly available at:

2) Megan then used salary data for Ontario professors available through the Ontario public sector salary disclosure, also known as the sunshine list. These data are interesting because they provide salary information for over 14,000 individual professors, going back in some cases over 20 years. Importantly, because there is a minimum salary of $100K to be included on the sunshine list, the sunshine list data underestimates the gender gap by about $3K a year. Nonetheless, the gender pay gap measured from the Ontario sunshine list is highly correlated with the gender pay gap measured from Statistics Canada data. Again, Megan has made most of her code publicly available (with the rest forthcoming) at:

The sunshine list salary data allowed Megan to explore four factors that may contribute to the gender pay gap, specifically gender differences in:

a. Seniority: The median male professor has been on the sunshine list only one year longer than the median female professor. This accounts for about $5400 a year, or less than half, of the gender pay gap.

b. Merit: Megan used publicly available data on operating grants made to professors through the NSERC Discovery Grant and SSHRC Insight Grant programs as a measure of “merit” or “performance.” The gender gap in salary is almost unchanged after adjusting for grant size, suggesting that differences in performance do not drive the pay gap.

c. Area of study: The gender pay gap is actually slightly larger among SSHRC (social sciences and humanities) than NSERC (natural sciences and engineering) recipients, suggesting it is not driven by a scarcity of women in natural sciences and engineering fields. Differences among fields within these two broad categories (NSE versus SSH) are more difficult to assess and should be explored further.

d. Starting salary: Megan measured the gender pay gap among faculty who joined the sunshine list in the same year. Faculty appearing for the first time on the sunshine list in 2016 already faced a $6900 gender pay gap. This suggests that differences in starting salary may be important contributors to the gender pay gap.

In summary, to a first approximation, about 44% of the gender pay gap at Ontario universities is due to seniority and about 56% is due to gender differences in starting salary. The difference in seniority should narrow as (disproportionately male) senior faculty retire, but universities should do more to address the gender gap in starting salaries.