Friday, October 12, 2012

The Technical Major Payoff and Females Deserve Equal Pay -- Isenberg Faculty Speak Out in the News

I really like being a faculty member at the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst (although, I admit, that being on sabbatical here in Sweden is simply fabulous).

I especially like the fact that my colleagues tend to "think outside of the box" and to speak out on important issues.

We are a very interdisciplinary bunch and that is one of the biggest strengths (and also, sometimes, one of the challenges) of  a business school -- bringing different perspectives and points of view to important problems.

I just returned from a brilliant seminar here at the School of Business, Economics, and Law at the University of Gothenburg  that was given by Dr. Jessica Coria. She described her research on environmental economics, assimilative capacity of the environment, traffic, and congestion pricing that was done with another economist, a biologist, and a chemist. I had met Dr, Coria when I was here this past June.

After returning to my office, in an inspired state from the seminar and discussion, I sat down to check messages and news (given the 6 hour time difference, the eastern part of the US is just starting to get to work).

Lo and behold, The Boston Globe has a terrific article on how different college majors yield different lifetime earnings, and it singled out engineering and math and computer science. The article noted a recent US Census Bureau report that analyzed earnings in terms of degree and occupation.

What also impressed me about the article was that two of my Isenberg School of Management colleagues were quoted in it: Professor Robert Nakosteen (who also travels to Sweden often) and Professor Tony Butterfield, the Director of our great PhD program.

In the article, Professor Nakosteen states that “Lifetime earnings can tell you something pretty dramatic about the major you are in. And you also have to do something that you like.”

The article also highlighted another report with some troubling stats on the disparity of women's salaries vis a vis men's in that "Women’s earnings were below men’s in every category of occupations requiring college degrees. A male computer programmer or statistician earned a median salary of $84,000, while a woman in the same job earned about $16,000 less, or $68,000 a year."

Professor Butterfield, in response,  noted that “Pay should be based on qualifications, experience, and above all, performance." “Women have been in the pipeline long enough in virtually all professions. The pay gap should be gone by now.”

WORMS (Women in Operations Research and the Management Sciences), a forum of INFORMS that I care a lot about, has started collecting additional data and studies regarding female academics and issues in STEM fields. This is certainly a very timely endeavor and something that we all need to pay attention to.