A Reason So Few Women Go into Academics?

So a little while ago, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) released “Visualizing Change,” its 2016-2017 Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession. I like numbers, so I started looking over some of their tables and noticed a comparison of average salaries for men and women faculty (Table 3). One immediately notices that women’s salaries are lower than men’s. For example, comparing the salaries at Category I (Doctoral):

Men Women W/M
Professor 135,739 124,217 91.51%
Associate 97,313 91,772 94.31%
Assistant 85,816 79,959 93.17%
Instructor 64,457 60,383 93.68%
Lecturer 65,857 60,911 92.49%
No Rank 84,773 74,329 87.68%
All Combined 108,372 91,356 84.30%

Perhaps unsurprisingly, on average women consistently make less than men for the same jobs.

On the positive end, these numbers are better than the national average, around 80%.

On the neutral end, I don’t have information about other factors, such as seniority, private funding, etc. It is possible that factors outside of the universities’ control contribute to the gap, perhaps significantly.

On the negative end, after going through years of schooling, hard work, living away from friends and families (or having to make new ones in each new town), women cannot expect to be compensated as well as men.

But these numbers raised two questions for me.

First, why is the overall average less than any of the individual ranks? If the categories of “No Rank” through “Professor” made up all their data, there is no way they could all be above 87%, yet the overall average at 84%. Some seventh category must be dragging down the average. The obvious missing category is part-time faculty. Either the ratio is so low, or the number of part-time faculty so high, or some combination that the unknown category can overwhelm the combined weight of No Rank, Lecturer, Instructor, Assistant, Associate, and full Professors! Whatever the case, the percentage that part-time faculty women make of men’s salaries has to be less than 84.3%. Working at half-time, adjunct, or graduate assistant levels is already not lucrative. Since most faculty start off teaching as part-time faculty in some capacity (whether adjuncts or graduate assistants), potentially a broad swathe of women beginning their careers in academics make significantly less than their male counterparts.

Second, are things at least getting better?

I tracked comparisons of men’s and women’s salaries going back ten years (2007-2008), the first year the AAUP gives data:

All Men All Women All W/M
2007-2008 93869 73383 84.30%
2008-2009 97889 76539 78.19%
2009-2010 99074 77502 78.23%
2010-2011 100671 78862 78.34%
2011-2012 103056 80671 78.28%
2012-2013 105584 82522 78.16%
2013-2014 108101 84654 78.31%
2014-2015 110578 86770 78.47%
2015-2016 110510 92304 83.53%
2016-2017 108372 91356 84.30%

At first the results were encouraging – a steady ratio of about 78% had gone up to 84% in the last couple of years. However, that was apparently the ratio in 2008, when the recession hit. One possible inference is that, when funding was in trouble, women took the hit more heavily than men. The “dip” in ratios appeared in almost all of the individual categories except for Instructors – the lowest paid category.

Even more to the point, the dips overall were disproportionate to the dips in each category, sometimes by a margin of 12%. That means that part-time faculty was hit significantly harder by gender than full-time, enough to drag the overall percentage down even further. That part-time income would swing more wildly is not surprising – the point of having contingent labor is to be able to shed them when funding is in trouble. An adjunct teaching three classes in a semester might go down to one, a 67% drop in income. But does this suggest that women adjuncts were shed at higher rates than men? I can’t answer without more data, but it does not look good.

 

So are things getting better? Yes and no. The percentage right now is relatively high and increasing, but if another recession hits, or if the anti-intellectual tide in the U.S. continues to rise and funding is cut for higher education, it may be women who are hit harder than men.

 

Update: A friend (soon-to-be Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Siena Heights University!), Wendy Crosby, pointed out that pay is not uniform across disciplines, nor is distribution by gender. That is, women tend to go into humanities and education fields, which tend to pay less than scientific fields, which men go into more often. The relatively large dip in salaries during the recession may point to bigger cuts to humanities departments. This is not a good sign, either, but it helps to explain the discrepancy when it is harder for public institutions to vary salary greatly within a category.

 

How We Make Jeremiah Anti-Abortion

The Bible says nothing about abortion.

Recently, I’ve been working on a project on this silence – not on the rightness or wrongness of abortion, but on the responsibility each Christian has in choosing to believe abortion is wrong, and in crediting the Bible as their reason for thinking this. There is an odd allure to biblical passivity when it comes to controversial subjects. Saying, “It’s wrong because the Bible says so,” absolves the speaker of any culpability when a non-Christian woman suffers due to a treatable ectopic pregnancy, or a raped twelve year-old is torn apart in delivery and dies. My concern is not with establishing their culpability, but only with disallowing the idea that they did not actively participate in that moral decision.

Because I want to hear from people who definitely believe that the Bible compels their anti-abortion stance, I’ve been talking with “pro-lifers.” In several conversations, Jeremiah 1:4-5 has come up. To clarify:

NRSV Jer 1:4-5: Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

If God knew Jeremiah before he was formed (Heb: אֶצָּרְךָ֤; Grk: πλάσαι; Lat: formarem) in the womb, then Jeremiah must have been knowable, so must have had full personhood. Granted, this says nothing about abortion. However, later Jeremiah will wish that the man who announced his birth had rather “killed me from the womb” (Jer 20:17; different phrasing), effectively cursing God’s plan. Jeremiah wishes his mother’s pregnancy had been aborted. But it wasn’t, and despite his status as a prophet consecrated by God in the womb, Jeremiah’s endorsement of an abortion – even his own – does not trump God’s plans for him, and does not count as a blanket endorsement of the practice.

The argument, as anti-abortion readers of Jeremiah understand it, goes like this:

God knew Jeremiah before he was formed in the womb.

∴ Abortion is bad.

That is, the two statements are equivalent. No argument needed. But in fact, there are a number of other assumptions that need to be brought into this argument to get from point A to point B. These extra assumptions are what I want to concentrate on because they are what we as readers of the Bible contribute to it, and without those additions to the text, the argument does not hold.

Assumption 1: The positions of God stated in the Bible are authoritative. This one is a bit obvious, but important to state out loud. Christians can sometimes plop down a verse from the Bible into an argument like it’s a hidden ace, and they are dumbfounded when it doesn’t shift the argument at all. That may be because the other party doesn’t care what the Bible says. Many people don’t – it is, after all, a point of faith that the Bible has any authority, not a self-evident fact. Furthermore, some people favor some parts of the Bible more than others. Christians can dismiss whole swathes of the Law (unless they find a few they like), and Catholics often dismiss any appeal to the Old Testament. These parts aren’t really the Bible, even if they’re in there. They’re more like windows into an ancient culture. So the argument is at least:

God knew Jeremiah before he was formed in the womb.

God’s positions as depicted in the Bible are authoritative.

∴ Abortion is bad.

Assumption 2: Jeremiah 1:4-5 asserts the personhood of Jeremiah as a fetus. The line about God knowing Jeremiah in the womb comes to him at the opening of the book as Jeremiah is called to be a prophet. Jeremiah resists, but God makes it clear that this plan is in place from the past (1:4-5), in the present (1:9-10), and in the future (1:7-8): the almighty God has plans for Jeremiah. One rhetorical point of the scene is that Jeremiah is not special, but God’s power to make use of Jeremiah is. God has the power to send Jeremiah where he commands him, and to protect him. God has the power to appoint him over nations and kingdoms, “to pluck up and pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.” And in 1:4-5, arguably, God has to power to know whom he will choose even before he is born. In other words, the line says something about God’s omniscience, his extreme foreknowledge and control over future events, rather than saying anything about Jeremiah and his personhood.

God knows all of human history completely before it happens. He can make predictions that we take to be accurate millennia in advance, before the grandparents’ grandparents’ grandparents’ grandparents of the people involved have even met, much less conceived their ancestors. And, apparently, God knows enough to choose a prophet a few years early, even when he’s still in the womb. While we may see a unique assertion of fetal personhood, we may also quite legitimately see yet another assertion of God’s foreknowledge and planning for the future. We have to choose to assume the statement is about Jeremiah’s personhood instead of or in addition to an assertion about God’s foreknowledge.

God knew Jeremiah before he was formed in the womb.

God’s positions as depicted in the Bible are authoritative.

Jeremiah 1:4-5 asserts the personhood of Jeremiah as a fetus.

∴ Abortion is bad.

Assumption 3: Jeremiah’s personhood extends to all fetuses. In the previous point, God knowing Jeremiah in the womb (despite knowing all things at all times) and having plans for Jeremiah is viewed as evidence that Jeremiah is a full person, even unformed in the womb. It does not necessarily follow that all fetuses have the same status. Or at least, that God has plans for all fetuses that involve being born.

This sort of anti-abortion thinking is also evident in appeals to Luke 1, when the angel Gabriel voices plans for the prophet John the Baptist to his father (1:13-17). However, in Luke, John has not even been conceived yet (cf. Luke 1:24 – After (meta) those days, Elizabeth conceived…). Luke one-ups Jeremiah by making God’s foreknowledge and plans for John evident even prior to conception. So do fetuses have full personhood prior to conception? This would be a controversial argument, even to strict anti-abortionists. God having foreknowledge of his prophets even before they are conceived is not controversial at all. After all, God has foreknowledge of the birth of the Messiah centuries before his mother is even born (cf. Isa. 7:14).

What needs to be noted is that both Jeremiah and John are prophets, important ones. It makes perfect sense that God would have plans early on for people who will be responsible for communicating his word. Indeed, as Jeremiah 1 makes clear, these plans include communicating God’s word. Not everyone communicates the word of God directly. God also plans suffering for Jeremiah that will not lead to his death. Not everyone suffers as Jeremiah did, or survives such suffering. God plans for John to prepare the way for the Lord and to baptize the Messiah. Not everyone prepares the way for the Lord or baptizes the Messiah. Both Jeremiah and John are special people because God had special plans for them. It does not follow that God has a plan for everyone. We may conclude that, of course, but only because it fits our theology and our mental construction of how God works. Whole books of theology need to be written in support. Jeremiah 1:4-5 wouldn’t cut it alone. So another assumption needs to be added:

God knew Jeremiah before he was formed in the womb.

God’s positions as depicted in the Bible are authoritative.

Jeremiah 1:4-5 asserts the personhood of Jeremiah as a fetus.

Jeremiahs’s personhood extends to all fetuses.

∴ Abortion is bad.

Assumption 4: God’s plans for fetuses necessarily include gestation and birth. In the specific case of Jeremiah, God’s plans for him required his gestation and birth, as well as entering adulthood, so he could fulfill his role as a prophet. All three elements are required. Yet when we talk about God’s plans for all fetuses, we only include gestation and birth. This is because children die, and we say this is God’s plan. Or because humans, once they are born, make bad decisions and act against God’s plans for them (and so may die), but fetuses are incapable of sin or disobedience – they are innocent – so they should at least get through birth. Nonetheless, Jeremiah couldn’t have been killed by a lion at the age of three, or caught in a fire at 11, or mugged and stabbed at 13. He couldn’t, because God’s plans for Jeremiah did not involve him dying as a child. God does not have such positive plans for all of us, at least the ones who die of SIDS, or leukemia, or car accidents. God may not have wanted those children to die the way they did, but he did not protect them either, because his plans, whatever they were, did not involve their survival into adulthood.

But the Bible goes further, depicting God killing populations that included pregnant women. There is no assertion in Genesis that nobody was pregnant when the flood came, or in Exodus that no pregnant women died in the plagues or even that the firstborn infant sons of the Egyptians had sinned when God slaughtered them, or in Joshua that no pregnant women were in Jericho. There are now over seven billion people in the world: when God kills a third of humanity (Revelation 9), do we really assume none of those 2.3 billion people is pregnant? We may, but it’s not in the text. God’s plan for all of those fetuses is to die still in the womb, and not always as punishment. The Egyptian fetuses die because one man, the Pharaoh, resists God – on at least four occasions because God forces Pharaoh to resist in order to play out the drama he had planned involving the ten plagues (Exod 9:12; 10:20, 27; 11:10)! Evidently, God does not have positive plans for all fetuses. God having positive plans for all fetuses is our (somewhat anti-biblical) assumption, and one that is necessary to the argument:

God knew Jeremiah before he was formed in the womb.

God’s positions as depicted in the Bible are authoritative.

Jeremiah 1:4-5 asserts the personhood of Jeremiah as a fetus.

Jeremiah’s personhood extends to all fetuses.

God’s plans for fetuses necessarily include gestation and birth.

∴ Abortion is bad.

Assumption 5: Abortion is a form of murder. So far, Jeremiah is a full person in the womb; his personhood can be extended to all fetuses, for which God has plans that necessarily involve gestation and birth. Therefore abortion not only goes against God’s plans for the fetus (as you will hear in some arguments), it does so in the worse way possible: murder. This is an important distinction because many anti-abortion activists have no problem undermining God’s plan for a fetus by denying pre-natal care to the mother, or by stressing her by worrying whether she will lose her job when she is forced to go back to work a week after it’s born, or about how she’s going to pay for diapers, daycare, doctors’ visits. God has positive plans for the child, but I don’t have to help with those plans… as long as I don’t kill it directly! It is an odd sort of argument to make, but I see it often online and implicitly in some of these conversations.

It is not obvious that murder would be the crime here, even if God knew Jeremiah before he was formed (Lat: formarem) in the womb. At least it wasn’t obvious to Saint Augustine. Despite being firmly anti-abortion himself, while interpreting Exod 21:22-23, Augustine states categorically that (accidentally) forcing an abortion (abortum compelleretur) in a woman when the fetus was not formed (non formatum) should not be considered a homicide (homicidum) because the fetus is not yet reckoned as a person (nec hominem deputavit). It is not that Augustine is unfamiliar with Jeremiah, but evidently he did not think to connect the two and allow Jeremiah to counter the claim in LXX Exod 21:22-23 that the death of an unformed fetus is not covered by the principle, “a life for a life.” Augustine would agree a crime was committed, just not murder.

Again, it is not to say that one is wrong to view the intentional death of a fetus as murder, only that Jeremiah 1 is incapable of making that point for you. The position originates with you, and perhaps your mental reconstruction of which verses from other books are relevant and how to read them, not with Jeremiah:

God knew Jeremiah before he was formed in the womb.

God’s positions as depicted in the Bible are authoritative.

Jeremiah 1:4-5 asserts the personhood of Jeremiah as a fetus.

Jeremiah’s personhood extends to all fetuses.

God’s plans for fetuses necessarily include gestation and birth.

Abortion is a form of murder.

∴ Abortion is bad.

Conclusion

The argument is not a simple equivalency of one statement in the Bible to a political, ethical position of modern day Christians. Instead, a complex argument needs to be formed with a number of assumptions brought in by the reader. Each of these assumptions could be complicated even more. Since we choose to bring these assumptions in or not, we are responsible for the argument formed. We are active creators of a position on abortion that has real consequences for fetuses and for women in the real world. We cannot pass ourselves off as passive recipients of a biblical command. Often, we are only passive recipients of someone else’s interpretation, which is not itself the word of God. People choose to take their positions on abortion, while believing they have passively accepted a position clearly stated in the Bible. It is only responsible to question critically that narrative, and to highlight the active role Christians take in choosing to oppose access to abortion as well as to support it.