Inside the Library Gender Gap
An exploration of why women rule libraries, except when it comes to pay
Stephanie Maatta -- Library Journal, 10/10/2008
Recent issues of the annual placements and salaries survey have given cursory exploration of salary parity between the genders as well as minority comparisons. There is no doubt that the gaps continue to exist and even widen. Women experienced another year of salary growth in 2007, but for another year's running they lagged approximately 7.7% behind men. The question that begs to be answered is, “What factors are driving the differences?”
Proportionately, women continue to comprise 80% of the new members of the LIS workforce. However, smaller proportions of women found positions in academic libraries (72.9%), government libraries (68.9%), and other agencies and organizations (67.4%) while dominating the school library media positions (93.9%). Average starting salaries for women in public libraries and special libraries fell while men experienced significant gains (as much as 9.1% compared to a loss of 8.4% for women) in the same type of agencies. Regionally, women who accepted school library media positions in the Southeast and the Southwest fared better than their male counterparts (slightly more than 4% and higher). The same situation occurred in special libraries in the Northeast and the Southeast, with women earning 3.7% and 4.6% more, respectively. Government libraries was the one agency where women dominated the salary game with average starting pay 22% higher than men, earning $46,540 compared to $38,138.
Historically school library media centers and “other” organizations generate higher average starting salaries. In both of these types of agencies, women experienced a comfortable salary growth, averaging just over 5% in each. School library media specialists are members of the teaching faculty and in most states are required to obtain formal teaching credentials. Much like the overall education profession, school library media positions are dominated by women (94% of the placements), and they have been subject to the same glass ceiling that many other female-dominated professions experience. Starting salaries for women in school media centers continue to fall below the levels men obtain. The rate of growth in salaries also reveals a gap, with a 12.2% differential between women and men ($44,602 compared to an average starting salary of $50,038).
Women up in “other” agencies
Even though they continue to lag behind men with regard to starting salaries for “other” agencies, women gained 5.1% in their starting salaries (from $47,163 in 2006). The best salary growth for women in “other “organizations was in the Midwest, with better than 17% upward movement. The percentage of women finding jobs in other agencies grew from 64% of the placements in 2006 to 66% of the placements in 2007. These positions included jobs in nonprofits, museums, Fortune 500 companies, and medical facilities.
Region seems to play a role in salary equity for women. In 2007, more women (approximately 30%) accepted positions in the Midwest than across the rest of the U.S. regions and Canada. In 2006 and again in 2007 average starting salaries were among the lowest in the Midwest, and women there followed the same pattern, taking among the lowest paid spots accepted ($38,638 in 2006; $39,844 in 2007), though there was a trend toward modest growth from year to year. On a positive note: following the general rise in salaries in the Southeast, women gained just over 8% in average starting salary, narrowing the gender gap in the Southeast to 4.9%.
First careers resonate
Background and experience are yet another piece in the gender puzzle. Interesting trends emerge from those who reported LIS as a second career (and in some cases “too many careers to name”). Women responding to the survey typically reported first careers in education, human services, nonprofit agencies, and the arts, while men reported jobs in law, medicine, science, and engineering. Starting salaries for women with prior professional experience were approximately 3.4% higher than the average starting salary for all women ($43,154 compared to $41,731); for men, the difference was more substantial, with $47,877 for those reporting previous careers to $45,192 for all men. This suggests that the glass ceiling migrates to the LIS professions along with career changers, though prior professional experience can help in general.
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