Despite recent efforts to decrease the pay gap between men and women, including a law requiring job postings to list salaries, the issue has not gone away, a lawsuit filed by a group of female professors at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie claims.

And the plaintiffs want action on what they say is an issue that's bigger than them.

The average pay gap between male and female professors at Vassar in the 2021-22 school year was $13,900, according to the college, which shared the data with The Chronicle of Higher Education.

What You Need To Know

  • 5 female professors have filed a lawsuit against Vassar College

  • The suit alleges Vassar knowingly had a pay gap between male and female professors, and did not properly address it

  • Vassar President Elizabeth Bradley said the college will invite a third party firm to review its salary polices and advise them on any adjustments that may be needed

The college is now the subject of a class-action lawsuit filed by five current or former female professors there.

Michelle Lamy, a lawyer representing the professors, said it is indicative of a larger problem.

“The fact that this kind of inequity is happening at Vassar, of all places, reveals that it's happening anywhere," she said. "And so we think it's incredibly important in this lawsuit to bring to light the kind of internal struggles that people like our female professors have after they have been trying and failing to raise internally."

That’s what Jessica Stender, policy director at the gender justice group Equal Rights Advocates (ERA), says is a widespread inequality. Pew Research Center found that in 2023, women in all sectors earn 82% of what men make, which is only a slight improvement from 2002, when that number was 80%.

“The ability to pay for basic necessities, put away for retirement, etc., really impacts the ability of women to achieve economic security and care for their families," Stender said.

The lawsuit alleges Vassar underpaid and discriminated against female professors and that the school, originally founded on the basis of equality in education, saw its wage gap increase nearly 2.5% from 2003 to 2022. It says the school did not properly address it, despite concerns being brought up.

A statement from Vassar President Elizabeth Bradley reads, in part:

“Vassar’s administration – with support from the Board – has extended the invitation to the Faculty Compensation Committee to engage an independent, third-party compensation analysis firm. We want this firm to immediately and thoroughly review our current salary distribution according to our salary policies and advise us on whether and how any adjustments need to be made.”

Lamy responded, “That kind of reaction is just like that, again, in the statements from both President Bradley and the board, which are at best inaccurate, and at worst misleading."

ERA is also representing the professors in the case. Stender says she hopes litigation is not the only answer to solving the gender pay gap issue, and that she wants to see more companies follow the Equal Pay Act, which make the discrepancy illegal.

“Research clearly shows that in places of employment where employers are committed to pay equity and other forms of anti-discrimination ... their employees are more committed and turnover is reduced," she said. "And employees, as well as ... customers or clients, are happier.”