New Data Shows Women in Higher Ed Earn More Under Female Presidents

According to a new report, both pay and representation for women increase at institutions where female presidents and provosts are at the helm.

February 10, 2022 · Updated on February 10, 2022

New Data Shows Women in Higher Ed Earn More Under Female Presidents
Opinion & Analysis
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  • Female presidents account for just one third of all university presidents in higher education.
  • Under their leadership, female administrators are represented and paid more equitably.
  • Still, women continue to earn less for every dollar their male counterparts earn.

Women have long been missing from executive positions in higher education. Instead, they tend to make up larger percentages of lower-level roles and earn less than their male counterparts. As a result, a significant salary gap has persisted. As of 2020, women accounted for just 32% of all university presidents and earned $0.91 for every $1.00 male presidents earned.

But new data collected by College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) reveals that when women hold leadership positions at colleges and universities, women administrators working under them are paid more equitably. Institutions with female presidents also have higher numbers of female administrators.

The CUPA-HR analysis used data from the organization's 2020 Administrators in Higher Education survey and its 2020 Faculty in Higher Education Survey. Researchers looked at 925 institutions that provided data on president gender and gender of other administrators, and 476 institutions for data on provosts’ impact on faculty.

According to the report, institutions with female presidents and provosts have higher percentages of female administrators and instructors at all levels.

Representation of Female Administrators in Higher Education, 2020

Women at institutions with female presidents Women at institutions with male presidents
Senior institutional officers 45% 42%
Institutional administrators 63% 61%
Heads of divisions 60% 55%

Source: College and University Professional Association for Human Resources

Representation of Female Deans and Professors in Higher Education, 2020

Women at institutions with female provosts Women at institutions with male provosts
Deans 48% 43%
Full professors 36% 33%
Associate professors 47% 45%
Assistant professors 53% 50%

Source: College and University Professional Association for Human Resources

Heads of divisions and deans at female-led institutions had the largest difference in representation compared to their peers at male-led institutions in 2020.

And though women continue to earn less than men regardless of leadership, pay is higher for women at nearly all levels when working at institutions with female presidents and provosts.

Pay Ratio for Female Administrators in Higher Education, 2020

Women at institutions with female presidents Women at institutions with male presidents
Senior institutional officers $0.97 $0.92
Institutional administrators $0.92 $0.91
Heads of divisions $1.06 $0.94

Source: College and University Professional Association for Human Resources

Women in senior officer and administrator roles continue to earn less than men at both female-led and male-led institutions. Female heads of divisions at institutions under women leadership are the only role in which women earn more than their male counterparts.

Pay Ratio for Female Deans and Professors in Higher Education, 2020

Women at institutions with female provosts Women at institutions with male provosts
Deans $0.88 $0.87
Full professors $0.93 $0.94
Associate professors $0.99 $0.99
Assistant professors $0.96 $0.94

Source: College and University Professional Association for Human Resources

Despite differences in pay under female provosts, the impact of female leadership on pay equity for deans and professors isn't as strong or consistent as its impact on senior institutional officers and heads of divisions.

Still, it's clear that the influence of women leadership in higher education positively impacts pay and representation across the board. Further, as representation of women in higher education increases, we'll likely see more opportunities for women in higher ed to move up the executive ladder and close the gender pay gap even more.