Gender Inequity Endures Among Highest-Paid UF State Employees

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In the past three years, gender disparity among the highest-paid employees at the University of Florida has changed little.

In 2016, eight of the 100 best-paid employees were women. As of the end of 2019, nine were.

The 2016 report came from an analysis of state payroll data by the Independent Florida Alligator. The same database was queried in December 2019.

Yet, the notion that little has changed is a bit misleading given the nature of the data.

How we crunched this data

The data for this story came from the official state database, available at Florida Has a Right to Know. The data were last collected December 18, 2019. University employees draw salaries from multiple pots of money, ranging from state sources to research grants from federal and private sources. The database lists those on different rows.

Using a spreadsheet tool called a pivot table, all annual avenues of payment were consolidated for unique employees. Similar to athletics, monies routed through the UF Foundation are not publicly reported. For example, funds received by UF donors designated as deferred compensation for the UF president is not included in the database.

Once the 100 highest-paid people were identified, gender was determined by searching each employee’s profile on UF websites to locate images and the preferred pronouns of the individuals.

For starters, the state university database excludes athletic department employees. Although most of the highest-paid coaches are for marquee men’s sports, it is possible that a female coach might have been paid enough to crack the top 100 list.

Further, 95 of the 100 highest-paid employees are affiliated with the UF College of Medicine or UF Health Shands Hospital. Many of them are surgeons or department chairs, and both of those categories are more likely to be filled by men.

Nationwide, about 90% of chairs of surgery are men, according to a 2018 report by General Surgery News. The report found that women are also under-represented in senior positions that tend to pay better: Only 7% of full professors in surgery were women.

Overall, UF was judged in 2018 to be in full compliance with federal law of equal employment practices, said Steve Orlando, assistant vice president of university communications.

For the UF Faculty 500 initiative, authorized by the Legislature in 2017, 49.4% of new hires were female, Orlando said.

“UF has made it an institutional priority to recruit the very best and most qualified faculty and staff from around the country and all over the world and to pay them competitively relative to our peer institutions,” he wrote in an email.

One of the nine women in the current top 100, Laurel Blakemore, clinical professor of pediatric orthopedics, acknowledged that progress is slow.

“I think our department is continuing to make an effort to decrease the discrepancy,” Blakemore said. “But it’ll take some time to do that in leadership – having said that, it’s time.”

When Blakemore joined the department of orthopedics at UF Health Shands Hospital in 2014, she was the only woman surgeon. Now there are a handful, she said. She has witnessed more women being hired, though not necessarily to the highest-paid leadership positions within the department.

Gender inequity is a complicated issue, with causes that are often inherent rather than intentional, said Alyssa Zucker, associate director for UF’s Center for Gender, Sexualities and Women’s Studies Research.

“It can be really hard to prove actual discrimination but if you look across institutions as a whole and you see this pattern, it can’t be that all women are less qualified than men — that’s just dumb, right?” she asked.

Zucker said that while racial and gender inequity can exist within recruitment pools, like that of the medical field, she would like to see the university work harder to offset the discrepancies by increasing hiring and promotion efforts toward minority groups.

Maxine Margolis agreed. Now a retired anthropology professor, she filed a sex discrimination lawsuit against UF and the Florida Board of Regents in 1999. In 2001, she settled for an undisclosed amount.

“It doesn’t get paid attention to unless people scream about it,” Margolis said.

About Gabriella Paul

Gabriella Paul is a reporter for WUFT. She can be reached at gabbympaul@ufl.edu.

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