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Structural challenges common at universities

I am responding to Monday's article about the wage disparity between male and female professors in B.C.'s universities.

I am responding to Monday's article about the wage disparity between male and female professors in B.C.'s universities.

Contrary to the sunny optimism expressed by Professor Hyndman and Rob Van Adrichem that the situation is likely to change, let me as an outsider with nothing personal to gain make some observations about the economic structural inequities that make a leveling of wages between the genders difficult to achieve.

First, because the wage disparity exists at all B.C. institutions, the evidence points to a structural issue that is not affected by the hiring practices of a particular institution. When an instructor has taught sufficiently long to earn increased pay because of experience and has not been able to secure one of the few tenured positions, that instructor becomes vulnerable to the economic demands of department budgets. It is simply cheaper to hire a newly-completed PhD candidate than to pay a higher salary to an experienced instructor who is likely to be female, as females occupy more of the junior positions.

Second, universities are in the business of training and more academics are trained than can possibly be absorbed by the system that trained them. Thus no shortage exists of freshly-trained academics eager to assume the few junior positions available in Canadian universities. And as females now outnumber males in the university system, more females will be hired only to experience the tragedy of recycling from one institution to another pursuing one sessional position after another, all the while perpetuating the wage disparity.

Third, universities are global institutions taking the best and brightest with the greatest economic support from the world over. International students, many of whom will be male, may be able to afford the best universities.

Canadian universities now have the option of hiring instructors trained in institutions with more "cultural cachet" than our own national institutions. Fourth, academics tend to marry other academics following the law of close association and if family becomes a choice, though family can be sacrificed for career, guess who experiences the greater stress of balancing career and family. More pressure for junior positions and wage disparity continues.

Most of what I mention are structural challenges in the university and say nothing of the personal and political dynamics that surround academics where men and women jockey for limited positions in our universities that are always at the mercy of student enrollments and budgets.

Harold W. Dawes

Prince George