Professor Dame Athene Donald believes that the university is making progress on inequalityThe institute of physics

A Freedom of Information request by Varsity has revealed that of the 101 staff paid £140,000 or more by the University of Cambridge in 2015, only 11 are women.

This follows a similar request last year which revealed that at the University of Oxford “only 8 per cent of its top-paid staff are women”. By comparison, women represent 10.9 per cent of these high earners at Cambridge.

The university’s response to the Freedom of Information request said that “these figures relate to salaries paid by the university” to “members of academic or administrative staff of the university” in the “financial year ended 31 July 2015” and excludes “non-salary payments”.

In 2014, the University’s Equal Pay review found that the pay gap between men and women across the board had closed by £110, but that women on academic contracts were earning on average £8,400 less than men. At the time, the university said it was making “positive progress” in addressing the pay gap.

Responding to the information, the President of Lucy Cavendish College, Jackie Ashley, told Varsity that “these figures should act as a wake up call to the university. It’s not right that in 2016, only 10 per cent of the top jobs in the university are held by women.”

She went on to say that “the problem is not that women are strongly discouraged from entering a career in academia, but they are not encouraged” and that “above all we need a culture change”.

“At a time when Cambridge is making great efforts to improve diversity among the student body, it seems odd not to take a look at the academics too.”

A spokesperson for the Women in Academia campaign – part of CUSU’s Women’s Campaign – told Varsity that “this information isn’t particularly surprising but we expect that it doesn’t show the full story”.

“When we look at employment statistics such as these, it is also important to look at where specific groups such as women of colour, trans women and disabled women fit into the pattern. It would be interesting to see the differences in salary between and among these groups.”

The University of Cambridge’s current Gender Equality Champions, Professors Judith Lieu and Anne Davis, recognised the issue when speaking to Varsity but said that the university was actively taking measures to address the problem. Professor Lieu said that the “gender disparity at the top bands of pay is obviously a matter of deep concern.”

However, she added that it is a problem which the “university is very aware of and which it is undertaking work both to analyse and to address”.

She continued by saying that the “pay gap has to be seen within the broader context of the opportunities for progression for all members of staff regardless of gender or any other aspect of diversity.”

“The significant drop-off of in the percentage of women from undergraduate through to the senior levels is evidence of the historic challenges facing women seeking a career in academic life across the sector (not just Cambridge).”

She added that the issue was “multilayered” and that whilst “there is a long way to go” there is “deep commitment among the senior leadership”.

“The goal is not just one of numbers and pay packets (although they are important) but of developing a culture where all people can be supported in giving of their best within the institution — which is the only way of ensuring that it continues to be a leading centre of creative intellectual dynamism, attracting and retaining the full range of talent.”

To this end, Professor Lieu said that the university is taking “a number of active steps” to combat this, such as “active participation in the Athena SWAN Charter which was set up to support women’s careers in the STEM subjects and has now been extended to include the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.”

Cambridge is just one of seven higher education institutions that has an Athena SWAN ‘silver institutional award’, and was the first HEI to sign up to the 30 Per Cent Club – a private sector initiative to increase representation at senior levels in the corporate world.

In 2015, Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz said he was “delighted to have overseen an unprecedented level of activity to support women and advance equality with the university” with regards to Cambridge’s performance in relation to the Athena Swan charter.

Professor Anne Davis – also a Gender Equality Champion – endorsed what her colleague told Varsity and added that “in the university there is an historical gender imbalance” and that this was “more pronounced at the senior level” but that the university “is trying to address this in a number of ways”.

She continued by saying that the university is partly addressing the problem with the ‘Returning Carers’ fund, open to staff members who return to work “after caring responsibilities so that the member of staff can ‘kick-start’ their career after a break” and has “mainly been used by those returning from maternity leave”.

She added that the “The Senior Academic Promotions scheme has been changed to ensure all contributions are treated fairly and has resulted in more women being promoted” and will help to “address the historical gender imbalance at the senior level”.

Speaking to Varsity, Professor Dame Athene Donald, current Master of Churchill College and Cambridge Equality Champion from 2010 to 2014, said that she did not “believe the university discourages women from academia or is inherently sexist”.

“However, the way pay is negotiated can disadvantage women who are anyhow in small numbers in the pool from which those who could earn upwards of £140,000 could be drawn. The university is acutely aware of the issues and actively attempting to find solutions.”

She also said that the university was the first of the Russell Group institutions to publish an Equal Pay Review and that this “in itself is a demonstration of its commitment to equality and transparency”.

Explaining the pay disparities, Dame Athene told Varsity that a key factor was that men tend to be more “mobile”, can often demonstrate attractive offers from elsewhere and are better able to “negotiate salaries upwards”. She added that there was “plenty of social science evidence” showing that “women who negotiate are less likely to be successful and so may not even try”.

She added that recent measures to tackle the problem may “not yet fully be reflected in the salary figures you see” and that “crude figures can hide complex facts”.

Responding to the information revealed by the Freedom of Information request, CUSU Women’s Officer, Charlotte Chorley, said: “The fact that only 10 per cent of those earning over £140,000 a year are women is testament not just to a gender pay gap, but a gender gap in recruitment and retention of women in this university.

“While the statistics are shocking, they are not altogether unexpected, especially at this institution. The university should be doing more to address its bias. I would, however, be interested to know how many of these 11 women are women of colour, or disabled, or lesbian, or trans women. Because, to talk about the gender pay gap without any recognition of how both pay and promotion are affected by other identity characteristics ignores the fact that the University of Cambridge is not just discriminatory in terms of gender.”

Varsity has reached out to the University of Cambridge for comment on this matter.