The glaring gender pay gap in Central Texas

Women in Travis County are not making as much money as their male co-workers —who do the same jobs— according to a new report from Stronger Women, Better Austin. The report, compiled from census data shows the median yearly income for men is almost $10,000 higher than it is for women in Travis County.

"When I go to buy food or groceries, I don't get a woman's discount, I pay the same thing as a male pays. So why shouldn't my wages be the same?" said Freda Bryson, an equal-pay advocate and a doctoral student at Texas State University.

Bryson says she experienced pay discrimination when she worked in retail about 20 years ago and discovered a male co-worker was making more money.

"When I approached someone in Human Resources, the story was, 'Well he has a family, he has responsibilities, and men just need to make more.' That didn't sit well with me because we're doing the same job, so I looked at that and thought that needs to change," Bryson remembered.

She left that job for the world of higher education, but a KXAN investigation shows that world isn't always paying women equally, either.

At the University of Texas, from cooks, to coaches, to professors, men are still making more on average than their women co-workers. An analysis of full-time employee salaries at UT shows about 600 more men than women are employed by the University. On average, each year, men make just more than $20,000 more than women. For a more representative picture, this analysis does not include coaches and their multimillion-dollar salaries.

"Some of the reasons have to do with perhaps women not receiving all of the opportunities that they need to get," said UT Senior Vice Provost, Janet Dukerich, who is trying to close the pay gap.

UT Salaries
Data from August 2014

According to the data provided (above), the salaries for full-time employees who are men range from $23,920-$3,824,856; for women, it's $24,667-$675,000. When you break it down by full-time professors, the salary range for male professors is $41,333-$558,608; for female it's $33,334-$427,467. When you filter out the Athletics Department, the salary range for men is $23,290-$624,350; and for women it's $25,667-$427,467.

Some cases at the University of Texas at Austin are glaring, especially when it comes to full-time professors. There are more than three times as many male professors as UT. On average, they make $50,000 more each year than female professors.

In many cases, a review of the department's top earning professors shows men often make more than women, despite having less teaching experience at UT. In the College of Pharmacy – the female professor has 11 years on her male counterpart -- but makes $160,000 less. In the Department of Philosophy, the woman has taught at UT 20 years longer, but makes more than $120,000 less.

"If a campus unit considers securing grant/research funding to be an important part of a faculty member’s performance (for instance, in the Colleges of Natural Sciences or Engineering), this may be factored into their performance evaluation, which may then translate to their overall compensation," explained Dukerich.

But taking into account gender, experience, field and rank, the gap at the University is 2.3 percent.

"It's still not zero, so that's not exactly where we want to be," said Dukerich. "But it's certainly better than where we were before."

Equal Pay Act

Earlier this month, a jury determined Texas Southern University did not discriminate against a female assistant dean who said she deserved to make as much money as her male colleagues. Michele Taylor,64, accused TSU of gender discrimination in violation of the Equal Pay Act. She has worked at the University since 1980 and filed the lawsuit in 2013. Her salary is $71,000 and she has a doctorate. Other less-educated male assistant deans with fewer years of service make more than $80,000.

But attorneys representing TSU told jurors Taylor's work was not as broad or as highly skilled as other non-teaching administrative assistant deans.

In 2013, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry vetoed one of only a handful of equal pay-related measures proposed in the Lone Star State in recent years. HB 950, authored by Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, dealt with unlawful employment practices, specifically discrimination in pay.

“I am deeply disappointed and heartbroken that women will still have to struggle to receive their equal pay for their equal work because of the Governor’s actions,” Rep. Thompson said upon Perry’s veto. “Women have been fighting throughout history for equality, and it amazes me that in 2013 women still have to fight for the same rights enjoyed by men.”

The bill aimed to enact a state version of the federal Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act by extending the deadline to file pay discrimination claims. If Perry had signed the measure into law, it would have restarted the 180-day clock at each paycheck or incident, so workers could sue whenever they discover discrimination without running up against the statute of limitations. A person could have also received up to two years of back pay prior to the filing of a complaint.

“Texas’ commitment to smart regulations and fair courts is a large part of why we continue to lead the nation in job creation,” Perry said upon his veto of the 2013 proposal, which he added “duplicates federal law, which already allows employees who feel they have been discriminated against through compensation to file a claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.”

This session, Thompson filed the measure again. Members of the House Business and Industry Committee worked with her office to tweak the bill to say a worker must pursue a lawsuit within 180 days of the unlawful act, limiting recovery to five years. Republican Jason Villalba was one of those working on the legislation, saying he had the support of the lobby group - Texans for Lawsuit Reform, which did not sign off on the 2013 version. Right now, the bill is stalled in the House, but could still move forward in some form.

Villalba’s involvement was a signal of repeated bipartisan support with the issue and could increase the likelihood of the new governor - Republican Greg Abbott - signing off this time around.

"We want to make sure that we have equal pay for all of our citizens, male or female, African American, Latino, or Anglo, but we want to do it in a way that doesn't infringe upon the rights of our businesses to be able to run their businesses and create jobs," said Villalba.

Bryson hopes she will be able to use her Adult Education PhD to educate others about equal pay for women.

"In the long term, I'm leaving a lot of money on the table," said Bryson. "I could be saving for retirement or vacation, helping my grandkids, so it’s very important. I think if we were men, we wouldn't be having this problem. And I don't think women have come to the realization there's power in unity and that we should advocate for the homemaker as well as the working woman."

Top 10 Highest Paid Full-time UT Employees
Data from 2014

 

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