Unis are the most progressive institutions in the world. Why are they paying women less?

Women working in higher education are paid £6k less than men a year

This week, as part of International Women’s Day, the University and College Union released a report showing the horrendous wage gap between male and female lecturers at top universities.

Appallingly, it said: “The gender pay gap across higher education (HE) equates to a shortfall of £6,103 per year for each female academic. In total, this difference in average pay is a gender pay gap of £528 million per year. The total salary spend on female academics is £1.3 billion less than it is for male academics.” The worst offender of the lot is Kirklees College, where women employees are paid a whopping 40 per cent less than the men, just for being female.

As part of my degree, I take a course exploring Gender and Writing throughout the centuries. In class, we might discuss how in the 18th century, women writers had to supplement their income with other jobs due to the huge wage gap. The course is taught by an amazingly fiery, feminist female lecturer, and is probably the best thing I’ve studied at university. But how can she stand there and talk about how unfair life was for the Brontë’s when she’s being just as underpaid and under-appreciated? How can unis offer courses on gender, yet pay women £6,000 less than men a year?

Personally, I don’t enjoy university life. The work is hard, the course is boring, essays are time consuming and the material is impenetrable. The one thing that makes going to lectures worth it are some of my fab feminist lecturers. But knowing these facts about their wages makes it difficult to swallow their funny quips about the patriarchy, when their job is so gravely impacted by it.

In fact, my absolute favourite lecturer has had to supplement her job at the university with a whole other full time job, due to being given a 0 hour contract. When you take into account that on top of this, she’s being severely underpaid, it makes me wonder why she stays in higher education altogether. For me, university is just a stepping stone (hopefully) into better employment, but how am I supposed to be motivated into wanting a job, when even the women that are helping me find one aren’t paid as much as they should be? It’s disheartening and depressing. Universities are meant to be at the forefront of the world, educating people and improving society, yet they’re still paying women less than men.

Of course, most working women are affected by the wage gap, it just seems so ironic that women attempting to educate and improve the lives of others in a job as already underpaid as higher education should be so heavily discriminated against. Universities are constantly changing and adapting to be more welcoming to disabled, BME and LGBTQIA students (and rightly so), and yet are still avoiding paying their female employees their rightful wage.