November 24, 2017

Equity Gap Redefined

In a year that brought disappointment to many grads, both women and men found modest salary growth in a number of areas. Nationwide, the overall starting salaries for men and women grew slightly (0.8%) from the levels achieved in 2009 ($42,556 compared to $42,215), with the best overall rate in the Midwest (5.7%). Women enjoyed the best salary growth in the West, leaping from $48,170 in 2009 to $52,340; men had similar luck in the Northeast, with 14% growth, moving from $37,965 in 2009 to $44,148.

As a positive sign of stabilization in the profession, for the class of 2010 the salary disparity was much closer with a 3.7% difference between women and men compared to 2009 when average starting salaries diverged by 8.3%. Unfortunately, this is probably because men struggled in the salary race, losing 2.4% of their average starting salaries ($43,845) compared to $44,945 in 2009. In 2010, men’s salaries hovered 2.9% above the nationwide average, while women’s salaries ($42,205) were less than 1% below the average at $42,205. For the men there was a significant reversal of fortunes in both the Southwest and the West (23.1% and 26.3% reductions respectively), and in the West men earned a whopping 17.4% less ($44,600 vs. $52,340) than women.

A number of factors helped bridge the salary gap. For example, women, even though they landed 40% of the jobs described as information technology (IT), negotiated salaries averaging $60,380 that were approximately 7.4% higher than men who accepted equivalent positions ($55,942). This is a complete turnaround from 2009, when women made 17% less than men in IT jobs. Women also did exceptionally well in winning high salary levels in knowledge management ($66,875 compared to men’s $40,750) and in the area of automation and systems ($47,833 compared to men’s $39,800). Unlike in previous years, 2010 women graduates were able to achieve consistently high-end salaries that were equivalent to and occasionally surpassed the higher salaries landed by their male counterparts. Men still took home the choicest salaries at $115,000 and $120,000, but women came in at levels nearly as hefty (in the mid- to high $90,000s to upward of $100,000).

Men achieved success in school library media specialist positions, historically dominated by women. Men from the 2010 class increased their salary levels in these types of positions from $43,448 in 2009 to $51,649. During the same period and in equivalent positions, women drifted down slightly from $45,737 to $45,087. Interestingly, the grads reported that approximately 12.5% of school media positions were part-time where they worked as substitute teachers or in two separate schools or school districts.

Women remained in or accepted 80% of the nonprofessional positions, such as circulation or technical services, at a much lower salary level than the men, averaging $30,226 compared to $34,164. This drove down salary growth for the graduating class as a whole and the women in particular; it also contributed to the frustration and dissatisfaction expressed by graduates overall. Among special librarians, women also lost a good portion of the gains they had achieved in 2009 (down from $43,858 to $41,206), with those in the Northeast feeling the greatest impact, dropping by 18.5% ($49,108 in 2009 to $41,427).

On the upswing for minorities

Graduates claiming minority status recovered much of what was lost in 2009, but inequity persists. Once again the pool was consistent, with approximately 11.7% of the respondents claiming minority status. When compared to all LIS graduates for 2010, the minority grads enjoyed salaries that averaged 4.6% higher ($44,602 vs. $42,556) and saw more impressive growth between 2009 and 2010 (up $4,127, or 9.3%). The real bright note was the recovery of salaries regionally, surpassing the levels set in 2008 by 4.4%.

Minority graduates saw the strongest rates of placement in academic libraries (22.4%) and in other agencies (19%). They also experienced the highest salary growth with these two types of employers. In academic libraries, where national average salaries grew less than 1% ($40,315 in 2010), minority graduates received starting salaries that were 5.5% higher than 2009 levels ($39,712 vs. $37,529). Yet these same academic library salaries were 1.5% below the national average in 2010. A similar situation occurred in other agencies. Salaries for minority placements surpassed 2009 levels by 13% ($47,129 compared to $40,993) but were 4.4% less than the average starting salary of $42,918 achieved by all graduates in similar jobs.

With the exception of the Midwest, where salaries held steady ($39,609), minority placements obtained higher salaries region to region than they did in 2009. The strongest growth was in the West, where salaries grew by 15.7% (up to $55,121 from $46,467) even though they had the lowest level of placement at 10% of all jobs; this was also a serious decline from 2009 when they comprised 17.2% of the placements. Interestingly, these same salaries in the West sprinted past the average for all students landing in the West ($55,121 compared to $50,792), helped by placements in government agencies and private industry. Minority graduates also made a strong showing in the Northeast, with salary growth topping 8.4% to $50,088 ($4,184 above 2009).

However, the gender gap was seriously evident among graduates claiming minority status. Minority women earned 1.5% more than all of their female peers ($42,834 compared to $42,205), but these same women fell 18.6% below the men who self-identified as minorities ($42,834 vs. $50,781). A contributor was the salary extreme in private industry jobs: minority women earned 36.5% less than minority men in equivalent jobs. The disparity was also compounded by the number of minority women who took on nonprofessional positions (12.4%) at salary levels well below national averages ($28,383 compared to $31,244 for all graduates and compared to $30,226 for all women).

Stephanie L. Maatta About Stephanie L. Maatta

Stephanie Maatta, Ph.D. (, is an Assistant Professor at Wayne State University School of Library Information Science, Detroit