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Approaches and Strategies for Addressing Pay Gaps Among Academic Staff

Approaches and Strategies for Addressing Pay Gaps Among Academic Staff

1. Introduction

Discrimination in compensation can only be remedied by the periodic implementation of comprehensive studies within each post-secondary institution, using non-discriminatory measures in order to identify the internal inequities and equalize compensation.1

- CAUT Policy Statement on the Human Right to Equitable Compensation

Compensation is more than salary, and can take various forms such as release time, research funding, size of the office, time to tenure and promotion, and workloads. There is little systematic data collection on these factors. Pay gap studies typically take a narrow view of compensation with a focus on salary differentials.

This guide looks at various approaches used to determine whether there are discriminatory salary differentials among academic staff. It does not provide deep detail into the analytical methods of studying pay gaps, but it does highlight some pertinent debates and issues.

A pay gap study may consider the broad array of reasons why women or another group in academia, on average, earn less than their male counterparts or another comparator group. Pay gap studies should take an intersectional approach to identifying possible discrimination in compensation.2 Despite wide evidence of discriminatory compensation on the basis of race,3 for example, there have been few efforts in Canada to undertake pay equity studies beyond binary gender and even less taking multiple variables of discrimination into account.

The examples referenced in this guide therefore look at studies that examine how gender impacts pay. The approaches and promising practices, however, will be informative for pay gap studies looking at different and additional factors, including race.

1.1.Pay Inequity and Employment Inequity

2. Undertaking a Pay Gap Study

The sections here will outline steps and considerations that associations can take when planning and undertaking a pay equity study. It will discuss the formation of a committee, planning and analysis, and data and research methodologies.   

2.1.Pay Gap Committees

2.2.Planning the Analysis

2.3.Data Selection and Acquisition

2.4.Data Analysis

Regression analysis – Pay Inequity

Regression analysis - Employment Inequity

Selecting Variables


Statistical significance

3. Outcomes and Recommendations

Ideally, the analysis undertaken by the committee or academic staff member(s) will support the development of specific recommendations. These recommendations may suggest monetary remedies that correct for past pay inequity, as well as systems for the ongoing monitoring of the adjusted pay gap to prevent/correct future pay inequity. These monitoring systems could be tied to anomaly funds that are specified within the academic staff association’s collective agreement. 

Some studies have also recommended policy change that help to mitigate employment inequity. Studies done by Simon Fraser University the University of British Columbia and McGill University, for example, combine analysis of both pay and employment inequity, with recommendations that address many facets of the pay gap.

1 CAUT. Policy Statement on the Human Right to Equitable Compensation, November 2017:

2 Woodhams, C., Lupton, B., and Cowling, M. "The Snowballing Penalty Effect: Multiple Disadvantage and Pay", British Journal of Management 26(1): 63–77, January 2015:The Snowballing Penalty Effect: Multiple Disadvantage and Pay - Woodhams - 2015 - British Journal of Management - Wiley Online Library

3 CAUT. Underrepresented and Underpaid: Diversity and Equity Among Canada’s Post-Secondary Education Teachers, April 2018: caut_equity_report_2018-04final.pdf

Conference Board of Canada. Racial Wage Gap, 2020: Racial Wage Gap - Society Provincial Rankings - How Canada Performs (

Longhi, Simonetta and Malcolm Brynin. The Ethnicity Pay Gap. Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of Essex. Equality and Human Rights Commission, 2017: