Women in academia – among some of the best educated women in America – suffer from the same salary inequities as other women in society. The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has found that women faculty “earn lower salaries on average even when they hold the same rank as men.” Thus, the recent United States Supreme Court decision on pay equity, Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, holds a number of important lessons for women in academia. This article explores the intersection of these findings with the Court’s opinion in Ledbetter. The article examines the revealing rhetorical choices in the majority opinion, written by one of the Court’s newest members, Justice Samuel Alito, and the dissent, written by the Court’s only remaining woman, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It explores the question of whether former Justice O’Connor might have come to a different conclusion had she still been a member of the Court. It also explores existing norms in academia for setting salaries, negotiating for increased pay, and determining what factors constitute merit. In considering these norms, it evaluates how academic recruiting practices like competing offers and market forces have a disproportionately negative effect on women’s pay. Finally, it explores how academia can effectuate voluntary change in such norms and concludes that through such normative change women in academia may fare better in terms of pay equity in the future.
Paula A. Monopoli, “In a Different Voice: Lessons from Ledbetter”