of 100 signatures
Re: Gender Pay Gap and Gender Pay Gap Report 2017 (published March 2018)
We, the undersigned, are aggrieved by the Gender Pay Gap at York, by the Vice-Chancellor's address which frames the University's Report, and by the often evasive and inadequate Report itself.
While we note the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research's recent initiative to open discussion across the University with regard to the Gender Pay Gap, the report and its framing have set an unpromising start to addressing the underlying issues. We therefore invite you now to address the points we raise below.
The Gender Pay Gap is cause for real concern as it is symptomatic of injustice at the University of York. Your response lacks moral urgency and fails to recognize the widespread disquiet about the Gender Pay Gap and what it signals about working conditions at York.
It is the injustice of which the Gender Pay Gap is a symptom that we wish to see tackled urgently and with real commitment. We fear the university will engage in a series of 'technical fixes' rather than address the underlying issues. Hence the critical questions: how will management at York address systemic and structural gender bias, rather than treating it as if it were simply due to individual unawareness or ignorance? How will the University address the injustices which burden many of its staff in their everyday working lives? It is the gulf between that persistent injustice and the report's apparent disregard of its human cost that most concerns us.
Some colleagues have signed the letter using pseudonyms. This will alert you to the high levels of anxiety and insecurity borne by staff in raising issues of gender in any public forum at the University of York.
What is wrong with the Report
The VC's introductory statement and much of the Report betray a failure to grasp the complexities of institutional gender politics.
The Gender Pay Gap at York should be a matter of shame to the management at our University, as indeed it is to us, the staff. Instead the report is complacent ('Continue the Good Work', p.5). The VC's introductory statement is hastily written (its first sentence simply makes no sense, p.2). Its tenor is better suited to heralding a university achievement ('we continue to embody the principles that make the University of York a great place to work' p.2). It resembles a corporate apology for a readily correctable minor inconvenience, akin to late running buses ('we continually seek new and innovative ways to improve our practice still further' p.2). It underestimates the intelligence, commitment, and political awareness of all staff, particularly the women of the University.
The Report lacks clear authorship. There is no clear responsibility for its content. It appears to be sutured together from various sources, joint efforts, and contributions from hand-picked individuals. This conveys the impression of dodging responsibility, rather than a frank and straightforward acknowledgement of major problems, a determination to address them, and a willingness to accept responsibility and accountability. We would like an explanation of this core failing.
The mean and the median gender pay gap at York are significantly higher than the UK national average. Yet the tone of the report is overwhelmingly complacent and dilatory.
The report offers no time specific action plan to close the gender pay gap (an approach commended in the guidance developed jointly at UK level by unions and employers for addressing gender pay gaps). Athena SWAN helps address real issues, but it is not designed to address the Gender Pay Gap. Colleagues attest that some departments which have gained Athena SWAN awards suffer from shocking sexism. Athena SWAN awards are not a substitute for setting our own goals at York, including dates and precise plans for reducing and closing the Gender Pay Gap, and genuinely making the university a place of greater justice.
Despite defining the difference between equal pay and the gender pay gap, the report often conflates the two and implies that the former will bring about the solution to the latter. Since the Equal Pay Review 2016, little progress has been made: the overall mean Gender Pay Gap has barely decreased (19.71% in 2016).
The Gender Pay Gap is about power and its abuse. It is not exclusively a women's issue. Yet to date, the university has treated it as such. Many male colleagues in the University are deeply concerned about the Gender Pay Gap. Many have significant relevant expertise. Yet the report ignores this and implies that women should clean up the Augean stables. We would like to know why.
There is evidence that many women are afraid to raise gender as an issue in their departments. They fear to be labelled 'difficult citizens' and consequently marginalized. We have witnessed such processes in our departments and beyond, often operating more or less subtly, sometimes over many years. There is nothing in this report or the Strategy that recognizes such dynamics or that in our view will squarely address or stem them.
Elements of the response appear to be parodic: Eg. 'The significant pay gap (mean) for the Senior Management Pay group can be explained by the majority of the Vice-Chancellor's direct reports being male. With these individuals excluded from the analysis the Mean gap is no longer present and becomes 3.56% favourable to women'. This insults us all.
Employment Culture/s at the University
The Report betrays a political naivete about gender politics. It fails to demonstrate grasp by University management of the structural issues exposed by the Gender Pay Gap or of their intersectional nature.
b) There is no single unified 'culture at York', as the document repeatedly claims. Across the university some departments and units operate far more equitably than others. The repeated emphasis on the 'York community' as if there is a single, stable, unified, and homogenous community at York (and as if one such were desirable) is at best tendentious and at worst misleading . The Gender Pay Gap Report and the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy both fail to present a precise analysis of Gender Pay Gap by departments or subject areas. Yet this is necessary if the Gender Pay Gap is to be adequately analysed, addressed, and ended.
c) The report and its framing are compromised by unevidenced claims. For instance, 'the commitment to equality, including equality of pay and reward is embedded in our culture and our policies'. If this were actually true, then there would be no gender pay gap at York. While 'commitment to equality' may be articulated in policies, it is not 'embedded in our culture'. Nor is there a single culture for it to be 'embedded' in. Nor do we regard that culture to be 'ours'.
d) There is a blithe assumption throughout the Report and stated explicitly in the document (p.6) that greater equality is in everyone's interests. This is tendentious. In point of fact, it is not in 'everyone's interests' to close the Gender Pay Gap. Unequal power relations and unequal opportunities do indeed benefit certain groups. The Report avoids this issue. Mere bias training (as proposed) does not address the structured and systemic nature of gender inequality, the power of vested interests, dominant cliques, personal patronage, habitual behaviours, and patriarchal practices. The absence of acknowledgement of these issues causes us concern.
What we want:
A commitment from the University leadership to end the Gender Pay Gap by 2025.
An immediate review of pay for all women staff, starting with those in the groups most affected by the Gender Pay Gap.
In our view the growing gulf between the highest paid and the lowest paid at York demeans the whole institution. We ask that the response of the University be ambitious and moral, not technical and mean-spirited. We fear that the university management's efforts to address the Gender Pay Gap will be overly narrow, overly technical, and directed at simply 'fixing the figures'. Such an approach will allow management to pretend to 'address' the Gender Pay Gap through a few high profile female appointments at inflated salaries. Such a strategy might appear to 'fix' the Gender Pay Gap in a technical sense, but it will not address the structural injustices of which the Gender Pay Gap is a symptom. We seek immediate assurances that this will not be the response at York. We are also concerned that initiatives on equality and diversity, such as Athena SWAN, are misrepresented as evidence of senior management's commitment to address the gender pay gap.
We want solutions that do not simply identify problems and then encumber women tasked with fixing it (we note that in departments duties such as Equality Officers, Athena SWAN etc are borne disproportionately by women). We are concerned that to date the burdens and work of the problems generated by the Gender Pay Gap and the culture that underpins it are borne overwhelmingly by female staff. The absence of any recognition of this issue in the report or in the management's response remains a concern to us.
We request that the York management follows the lead established by LSE and Essex. At LSE female professors will be moved up 3 pay points to lift their average salaries to the same level as male chairs. Female academics at the London School of Economics are set to be given pay rises after an internal analysis found that they were paid significantly less than their male counterparts, even when age, length of service and research productivity were controlled for. Heads of department at the LSE will be asked to nominate female academics who deserve salary increases 'on the basis of equity' in response to their Gender Pay Gap survey which found that women earned 10.5 per cent less than men with similar experience and output. We request that York follows suit by the end of 2018. The University of Essex's decided to move its female professors up three pay points in order to lift their average salaries to the same level as male chairs.
We want to see immediate action to address the marginalization of women. Rather than assuming that marginalization has occurred through some 'fault' of these women, we ask you to consider how it has been brought about by dominant, sexist, and restrictive conventions of what is approved and preferred behaviour. We do not discern alertness to this matter in the Report.
We ask that the Gender Pay Gap and its institutional politics should be addressed as a matter of priority by a special committee chaired by a senior academic with a demonstrable track record of knowledge of institutional gender politics and of commitment to change, rather than by an HR manager or PVC appointed purely ex officio, or deeply reliant on Athena SWAN, as though this is a narrowly practical or technical issue. The committee must include women who have been marginalised as well as women who have been relatively successful in the existing problematic system.
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