Back to top

Simon Fraser University

Available Studies

Based on information presented in the papers available, SFU has undertaken two pay equity studies. The first, published in 1991, relied primarily on descriptive statistics. It presents several different cross-tabulations focusing on the salaries of faculty members with doctorates, recognizing that there were notable pay differences between members that held doctorates and those that did not. Within the sub-population of faculty that hold a PhD, the study examined gender pay differences by faculty/market discipline, experience, and rank. An analysis was also done on faculty in the assistant and associate ranks.

In 2015, SFU released its second pay equity study, which primarily used regression analysis. It used data from 2004 to 2013, which included variables for salary levels and composition, indicators for endowed chairs, department and faculty, years of service at SFU, years in current rank, and rank.

The core of the analysis was a regression of salary/the natural log of salary on variables related to rank, years in current rank and its square, an indicator of endowment chair status, and department. The salary measures included market differentials, retention awards, and research chair stipends in addition to base salaries. The analysis was done in parallel for research faculty and teaching staff and found a pay gap of 1.7% for research faculty in 2013, but no evidence of a pay gap for teaching faculty.  

Each regression for years 2004 to 2013 also revealed another interesting trend. From 2004 to 2008, SFU hired several more female faculty members, increasing the proportion of female faculty members at SFU. Corresponding to this increase was an increase in the adjusted gender pay gap. Specifically, the pay gap increased from zero in 2004 to $2000 in 2008. The proportion of female faculty has remained stable from 2008 to 2013, and so has the adjusted pay gap.  

In addition to the core salary regressions, the study also presented a Blinder-Oaxaca decomposition for research faculty using 2013 data. The decomposition demonstrates that the largest determinants of the raw pay gap are rank (38%) and department (34%). A Blinder-Oaxaca decomposition was not conducted for teaching faculty salaries since a gendered pay gap was not statistically significant.

The study also presented additional regression analysis to determine the influence of gender on promotion rates, starting salaries, and "off-scale" compensation and retention awards.

The analysis of "off-scale" compensation (market differentials) and retention awards included three parallel regressions, one for each form of salary: base salary, "off-scale" compensation, and retention awards. The analysis suggests that gender differences in the provision of off-scale compensation is a major driver of the overall pay inequity found in the research faculty group.

To elaborate on this finding, the study presents results for the main salary regression run on two sub-groups of the research faculty: those in departments where the average stipend is less than $2,500, and faculty in departments where the average stipend is greater than or equal to $2,500. The results demonstrate that gender pay inequities are concentrated in departments where greater off-scale compensation is provided, specifically from 2008 onward.  

For the starting salaries analysis, the researcher ran pooled regressions using starting salaries from all years. The regressions controlled for year with year dummy variables, and included the same variables as those used in the main salary regression (with the exception of years at rank). The report states that gender is a determinant of starting salaries, accounting for a gap of approximately $2,620 (this amount may be imprecise due to small sample size). The pay gap with respect to starting salaries is most prevalent in "high-paid" departments, relative to "low-paid" ones. 

The report investigates the impact of gender on promotion rates to associate professor and to full professor using a Cox Proportional Hazard Model. The analysis controls for the different types of leaves taken by faculty members: medical leave, parental leave and other leave (which includes sabbatical leave and other paid and unpaid leave). While gender was not found to be a determinant of promotion rates, women are more likely to take parental and medical leave, and these types of leave have a negative impact on the likelihood of promotion.

Overall, the findings of this study are unique in that they find a dynamic effect of the proportion of the faculty that are women and the pay gap, though the report does not indicate why this dynamic is present. It also highlights the importance of gender in influencing compensation beyond base salaries. 

As a result of the 2015 analysis, the Simon Fraser University Salary Equity Working Group (the SFU Working Group) compiled a final report containing recommendations based on the findings. The SFU Working Group calls for a 1.7% across-the-board increase in the salaries of all female faculty. It also calls for retroactive remedies to full-time female research faculty of 1.76% retroactive to January 2009, including those women who had retired since that time. The SFU Working Group also recommends administrative improvements, such as salary monitoring and a revision to the anomaly review process.

The SFU Working Group’s report provides rationale for a group-based award over other type of remedy, such as below-the-line correction and individual case review, stating that the latter two methods are inferior to group-based awards. In the SFU Working Group's view, "there is ample evidence that [they are] not effective in eliminating gender pay gaps".4 For example, the 2015 data analysis report cites the case of McMaster University, which relied exclusively on case reviews prior to the group remedy provided in 2015 that was based on a regression analysis. Furthermore, they argue, it is difficult to administer remedies via individual case review in a transparent way, and it is time consuming.  Likewise, the report cites that below-the-line approaches are not optimal because the success of this approach is "highly varied".5 The committee asserts that group-based remedies have recently become the method of choice in Canada, citing the experience of the University of Manitoba, the University of British Columbia, the University of Victoria, McMaster University, and Waterloo University.

The SFU Working Group also acknowledge that the remedy "may induce a gender gap against men in lower paid departments"6 as the pay gap is less acute in these departments. However, its suggested remedy, a percentage adjustment, will mitigate this issue better than a remedy based on a dollar amount. It suggests that salaries for these departments be monitored, and that salary discrepancies arising from the group remedy be addressed through the university's general anomaly review process. 

In response to the SFU Working Group's recommendation, SFU increased salaries of full-time women research faculty by 1.7% effective September, 2016. It also established an anomalies fund of up to $4.8M to address pay discrepancies of female faculty. 

4 Simon Fraser University. Salary Equity Recommendation Committee Final Report. September 2016:

5 Ibid.

6 Ibid.