11 No. 1
Knowing Your Worth
Negotiation and the academic marketplace
“Why don’t we have, for the person who’s been at the institution for ten years whose equipment is all ratty, a refresher package?”
“I don’t think Emory should ever concede that it will lose people to better schools. I think it has long done that, has not tried to remain competitive, and sometimes I fear that it is still just trying to be good enough.”
Book Review and Reflections
Necessary Dreams: Ambition in Women’s Changing Lives by Anna Fels
Making Academic Writing Unpalatable
Examining violence without sensationalizing or sanitizing
Academic Exchange: You spent sixteen years at the University of Minnesota. How does negotiation compare between private and public institutions in your experience?
Patricia Bauer: When you are a beginning assistant professor, the expectations are the same at a high-quality private institution like Emory and a Research I institution like Minnesota. The starting salaries—setting aside the Stanfords, the Harvards, the Yales—are pretty much the same across the board. Working your way up through the ranks at a public institution, however, it is more obvious what you need to do. Everybody is pretty much doing the same thing.
[Another difference is that salaries at public institutions are public information.] I had friends among the faculty who as soon as they knew the salaries had been posted would go to the library and look them up to use in bargaining. But still, it is a meritocracy. One of the beauties of academia is that we are rewarded in proportion to our contribution to the institution and the discipline. Generally if someone is earning substantially more than you and you have the same years in rank, you can point to a few reasons why: she has published three more books than I have, has won that award this year, or received another grant.
AE: What about unexplained salary gaps that favor men?
PB: It is well documented that women in particular are hesitant to negotiate on their own behalf, and I think that it is probably even harder when you are negotiating with a male chair and a male dean. I was department chair at Duke for one year, and we were doing three searches with multiple candidates. The women asked for less. They did not ask for summer salary, for as much space, or for as much staff support.
AE: How do you think faculty determine their own worth in that context?
PB: I think a major way is by social comparison. We look around at our peers and ask, What are they getting, what do they have, and am I better, worse, or the same? There is no question that there is a huge grapevine. There is nothing wrong with getting on email and saying, I understand that you’re also on the job market and we do similar work; what are you asking for? But I think one of the mistakes we make is not recognizing that every institution compensates differently. Some will load start-up packages with personnel but scrimp on equipment, because that is where their budgets are. It is so important to get that whole picture—yes, she’s getting two months of summer salary, but she doesn’t get a teaching release.
AE: What do you think of the practice of going on the market just to leverage a counteroffer?
PB: I think this is a very dangerous situation for individuals and institutions to find themselves in. It is very expensive; it is a very time-consuming process; it is a great deal of investment of energy. At a senior level, you are disrupting people’s life. When my lab [at Minnesota] got wind of the fact that I was looking around, there was a six-month period when not only was I upsetting my own and my husband’s life, but I was upsetting their lives. Their adviser might leave; their employer might leave. You shouldn’t be cavalier about those things. On the other hand, sometimes it seems to be the only way at an institution that you can help yourself.
AE: How might a school pre-empt it?
PB: Some institutions have nice internal recognition mechanisms, such an endowed professorships and chairs. Those are ways of allowing you to gauge and demonstrate your worth without having to go on the market. Nobody thinks twice about a new faculty member getting a start-up package. Why don’t we have, for the person who’s been at the institution for ten years whose equipment is all ratty, a refresher package? We recognize that you could go elsewhere and get new equipment and resources, and we are glad that you are staying here. When you think about what a counteroffer retention package costs, it is easy to make the case that we should take steps to avoid the need to put one together.
AE: What about other types of incentives such as portable tuition benefits?
PB: I think we have to be very careful with any of those incentives because you are always only hitting a subset of the population. Tuition benefit does nothing for me because I don’t have children. But I do think Emory and every other institution of its ilk should provide the most high-quality childcare that money can afford for faculty, students, and staff. And that should just be a priority; it’s a family issue that hits overwhelmingly. We could become a premier institution for support of women and families.