Gender pay gap: Durham ranks 140th out of 161 higher education institutions

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Recent Government statistics show Durham University has a 20.2% median gender pay gap — above the UK average of 15.4%. Out of the 161 higher education institutions that submitted data in 2020/21, Durham University has the 21st largest median pay gap, ranking 140th out of 161.

Durham also had the 3rd biggest median gender pay gap for institutions with over 5,000 employees: only the University of Reading and the University of Exeter had greater disparity.

Median gender pay gap (%) for Higher Education Institutions with over 5,000 employees

Durham’s mean gender pay gap is wider at 22.1%. With this measurement, Durham has the 10th largest pay gap out of 161 higher education institutions.

Under the UK Equality Act, all employers with over 250 employees have to report the difference in earnings between male and female employees. Gender pay gap statistics are given in both median and mean figures. The median is useful to indicate what the ‘typical’ situation is, as it is not distorted by very high or low hourly pay (or bonuses). However, the median does not address the gap in similar job roles and, due to exemptions, some high-level executives, and some non-employees, typically low-paid workers, are not included in the data

A University spokesperson said: “Durham University is committed to actively promoting equal opportunities for all our staff and students, eliminating discrimination and creating an inclusive and supportive work and study environment that respects the dignity of staff and students and helps all members of our University community to achieve their full potential.

“An organisation’s gender pay gap is the percentage difference in hourly earnings of males and females. We have reduced Durham’s median gender pay gap by eight per cent, at a time that the gap across the sector has increased.

 “Durham does not have an equal pay issue”

durham university

“This is a result of working with trade unions and our Diversity Pay Steering Group, on which trade unions are represented, to address issues including casualisation and a comprehensive gender pay gap action plan.

“The gender pay gap at Durham is mainly due to the structure of our workforce. Our college system means that we have more lower graded roles than other universities of a similar size and, unlike many other universities, we only outsource a very small number of our lower graded roles.”

At Durham University women occupy 38.3% of the highest-paid roles and 66.5% of the lowest-paid roles.

However, the percentage of women working in the lower hourly pay quarter was average for the higher education sector, ranking 80th out of 161 employers.

Where Durham stood out was the low percentage of women receiving higher pay. Out of 161 higher education institutions, Durham ranked 145th for employment of women in the upper hourly pay quarter.

The University spokesman went on to say: “Equality pay gaps are different to equal pay, which is a legal requirement that men and women engaged in work which is equal or similar must receive no less favourable terms and conditions, including pay. Durham does not have an equal pay issue.

“We have recently permanently changed our pay scale so all employees are paid above the ‘real living wage’ – one of the first Russell Group universities to do so.

“However, we are not complacent. We recognise there is more we can do and welcome feedback.”

“Senior management will claim that the university does not have an equal pay problem”

durham ucu

A spokesperson from Durham UCU told Palatinate: “Senior management will claim that the university does not have an ‘equal pay problem’, and everyone is paid according to the value of the work they do.

“DUCU believes that the systematic and deliberate undervaluing of essential work carried out mostly by women workers — cleaners, caterers, departmental administrators, casualised academics — is in itself an equal pay problem.

“At a recent staff meeting, senior management claimed that ‘if you are a male or a female academic on grade 7, you are paid broadly the same, so there is no unequal pay issue here’. 

“This was very unhelpful framing which casts doubt on whether there is a deep understanding of what the gender pay gap is actually about. Some progress has been made around promotions policy recently, but there is still a long way to go and recent statements were not particularly constructive and left some members feeling very frustrated.”

Image: Lizzie McBride via Datawrapper

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