Why isn’t your headline “why the hell are women still earning less than men?!?!”

I read Library Journal pretty regularly. I enjoy it, the writing is often great and John Berry and I see eye to eye on a lot of things. There have been a few lousy headlines about library topics that we’ve seen in the popular media, where the library was on what I would consdier the “right” side of an issue and the headline made them look like they were not. I read the whole article on salaries called What’s an MLIS Worth (for the record, I have an MLib.) and I have to say I could not get over the fact that women in librarianship, in all parts of librarianship earn less than men.

This fact is buried about four pages into the article in a section entitles “Gender Inequity Remains” and states “While women have seen positive improvements in salaries, finally topping $40,000, their salaries continue to lag approximately 6.5% behind salaries for men.” LJ then goes on to explain that they think this is because more men work in academic and vendor-type jobs where salaries are generaly higher. It also states that women have higher starting salaries generally and do better in special libraries where their salaries are 17.6% higher than men, but this section was one of the smaller ones in terms of total population; there were only 14 men’s salaries examined (and 86 women’s). Men in public libraries, on average, earn more than women, except in Canada. Men in academic libraries, on average, earn more than women. I’m sure there are many good reasons why this “effect” exists, but I’m a little curious whether there are really just a few totally plausible explanations for this, or if librarianship despite its intelligent, introspective, feminized nature is just as bad as everyplace else with its remaining gender inequity?

17 thoughts on “Why isn’t your headline “why the hell are women still earning less than men?!?!”

  1. The persistent gap in salaries for the two sexes just hacks me to the bone. As my feminist scholar wife would say to me “that’s the patriarchy, dear,” and she’s of course absolutely right. It’s everywhere, and all-powerful to boot.

    You asked if librarianship is as bad as everyplace else. Perhaps. But the institution that is competely retro when it comes to such things is academia as a whole. Most institutions are so socially backward and patriarchal as to be laughable. Most corporations–yes, those evil, greedy, bloosucking monsters–have far more progressive social policies than do most universities and colleges. From my experience, it’s the larger institution’s old-boy clubbiness that impacts salaries across the board at the university; unfortunately, all too many women in libraries are slaves to the patriarchy and ‘enforce’ these systems in their own organizations. I don’t see such inequity where I work now, but have seen it quite clearly elsewhere.

  2. Somewhere in one of the more subversive books I picked up during my Foundations of Librarianship class, I learned that originally, at least in the US, most, if not all, librarians were men. Thanks in large part to Carnegie, library construction boomed in the late 1800s and early 1900s. There weren’t enough male librarians to staff them all, and the small town libraries couldn’t afford them. When Melvil Dui opened his library classes to women, it wasn’t due to any sense of equality, but cold hard economics. Women would work for less. The legacy follows us to this day.

    But you have to ask, who is doing the hiring and salary reviews here? With an 80/20 margin, is there still not a significant number of women in administrative positions who can change that? (I can’t get Table 4 and beyond to display. Maybe the information is there.)

  3. Thanks for the link to “What an MLIS is worth.”

    MLib? I’ll have an MS (in LIS) in three classes, and there are still MLS programs floating around, in addition to the majority (MLIS programs).

    This field = alphabet soup.

  4. I’m not sure I understand how this can be. When I was hired for my job in an academic library (both of my library jobs actually), there was one salary; take it or leave it. Perhaps men are more likely to go up for promotions and get raises that way. My salary is determined by the position, not the gender.

  5. This survey is obviously a lot of work, but some of this is straight up misleading. Not only is the response rate (the number of graduates reporting) rate around 40% every year, but there are also a fair number of library schools that don’t report data, and someone should be asking why. After looking at these tables, I must make the comment that I know of abolustely no one who starts out at $40,000 working at a public library in my home state…and I do keep track of this stuff.

  6. I work in a library where the majority of the faculty and staff are women and the majority of the department heads are men. And I think this is a pretty common scenario.

  7. Because we are door mats.

    See also; why teachers and nurses (the other two traditional educated female jobs) make a lot more than librarians. Hint – unions and strikes.

    (As a non-MLS library staffer, I’ll just point out that MLS librarians make more than the rest of us, and that public libraries, especially, have been exploiting part time employees badly for years.)

  8. i am a licensed social worker who works as a pseudo-librarian in a resource center/specialty library.

    i cannot speak to the issues within the librarian community but they sound similar to social work problems.

    we are a predominantly female profession where the majority of administrators are male. it seems that they seek out those positions more while women tend to seek out hands on, rubber-hits-the-road type jobs. obviously there is a pay differential between the two.

    another issue i’ve been trained to avoid is that women do not negotiate as hard as men do for their salaries, raises, etc. so, if a female librarian accepts whatever is given to her and a male coworker pushes for even a bit higher, when it comes to raise time and they both receive the same percent, the amount is very different. each year they both receive the same rate of a raise but the desparity between the dollar amounts only grows. i’m sure there is a mathematical word to explain this more clearly but i can’t pull it out of my ancient memory.

    another difference is biology. when women have babies, take maternity leave, etc. they generally take more time then men who become fathers. some may decide to stay at home full time and return to the profession after a few years. this stops their pay from increasing all while their male counterparts continue to receive updated training, ongoing raises, promotions, etc. when a female returns to the workforce she has to catch up from all that missed time.

    what are the answers to this? in social work we were taught to be more assertive when negotiating pay, to not be afraid to ask for more benefits, and to not fear managerial positions. i think administrators also need to be aware of these issues and find ways to decrease the pay gap.

  9. Jess Bruckner – I don’t know what your home stat is, but I’m pretty sure we’re there ($-wise) in New Jersey.

    As for males’ salaries being higher, it’s impossible to justify, in my opinion, although the article did point out that men are still by FAR a minority in the profession.

  10. Based on my experience and observations (as a male librarian), I have noticed several factors that may be coming into play:

    1) I know many women who a) were unwilling or unable to relocate geographically to higher paying positions or b) went to a lower paying job for sentimental reasons (i.e. to be the Children’s Librarian at their hometown library instead of moving to a higher-paying admin job somewhere else. I have jumped several states in the past few years for higher-paying employment, but the people who have stayed in their home regions have stagnated in their positions.

    2) More men than women go into libraries only to go into management. I went into libraries to become a manager only; I don’t really have a deep, ingrained love and respect of books and reading. I get my job satisfaction from freeing my staff to fulfill the library’s mission. If our mission changed overnight, my staff would fulfill that mission with no protest from me. Not all librarians feel that way.

  11. Sharon,

    If a librarian decides to go for promotion, a dossier is prepared by the candidate, sent to a committee of three fellow librarians, then to a university committee. Promotion in this case is from Assistant Prof to Associate Prof, not any change in duties, but it does come with a $2000 raise. With our male/female ratio almost any committee is going to be two female and one male.

  12. And just this past week on Fox News Sunday Laura Bush said:
    Transcript: Laura Bush on ‘FOX News Sunday’
    Monday, October 29, 2007–

    BUSH: Well, the fact is I’ve been involved for a long time in policy and I think I just didn’t get a lot coverage on it.

    I mean, I really do think there’s a stereotype, and I was stereotyped as being a certain way because I was a librarian and a teacher and, you know, had the careers that traditional women have that were considered traditional women’s careers.

  13. I understand your question. I also understand it is a sad nature of mammals to be tribal. We as humans are supposed to be civilized by now, alot of us are, and alot of us just ain’t. Did I read somewhere that Dewey himself was racist?

    We all feel the effects of this in different modulations. I am a young black male working in a library. Our local library was first built and funded by a local womens club a century ago or something like that. I am aware when there are metaphysical forces at play. It is usually subtle, unfortunately sometimes it is the opposite of subtle and enforced brutally, but I don’t blame race or gender. it’s more just the error of humanity I guess. I have had to declare my heterosexuality to skeptical strangers just because of my job position. Apparently I’m supposed to drag my hairy knuckles throughout the library if i’m sissy enough to work there in the first place. I know myself not to attach rationale to profile. Not everyone else knows this, or are they even aware of when they are profiling people – seriously – it is sometimes done involuntarily. All I can say is we gotta continue to give reality checks to people, if we disappear they will notice the lack of quality and hopefully they’ll give the next individual the credentials reguardless of what profile they fit.
    the majority of the time things are cool. there are definite times when the foolish people do their foolish things though. I am very sorry if it hits us in the paycheck. that sucks.

  14. This is a global problem within Librarianship.

    In the UK women earn on average 17.5% less then men.

    There are 9 women Library workers for every man, but 3 men for every woman within library management.

    There is no magic cure that is going to fix this kind of inequality.

    What is needed is more public education about the lack of equal opportunities within the library world, & a lot more campaigning for equal pay with all other workers.

    The motto should be that of
    ‘just because we work in libraries, it does not mean that we also signed on for a life of poverty.’

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