Māori & Pacific academics paid & promoted less – Expert Reaction

New research finds a substantial pay gap and significantly lower chance of promotion for Māori and Pacific academics in New Zealand universities compared to their other colleagues.

The authors say the differences could not be explained by factors other than ethnicity, such as research performance, age, or field – and these inequalities persisted over time, particularly for women.

The SMC asked experts to comment on the research.

Dr Tara McAllister, study lead author, Te Aitanga a Māhaki/Postdoctoral fellow at Te Pūnaha Matatini, comments:

“In this study of 17,174 academics from all eight New Zealand universities we examined ethnic and gender differences in promotions and earnings between 2003 and 2018. We found that Māori and Pacific academics, compared to non-Māori and non-Pacific male academics, were significantly less likely to be promoted to the Professoriate (Associate Professor, Professor) and earnt significantly less. These gaps were not explained by research performance (as measured by the Performance Based Research Fund), age, or field of study (e.g. science).

“Ethnic inequities were particularly stark for Māori and Pacific women. Māori and Pacific women had 65% lower odds of being promoted into the Professoriate than non-Māori and non-Pacific male academics, after taking into account differences in research performance, age and field. After taking these differences into account, we also found that Māori and Pacific women academics earned on average $7,713 less in 2018 than non-Māori and non-Pacific men.

“Further, our data modelling showed that these inequities would either persist or increase over time. That is, current promotion practices will not close the gap in promotions and related earnings; suggesting the need for system-wide change.

“These findings counter notions that promotions are based purely on merit. This paper is a world-first because we were able to quantify institutional racism in promotions and related earnings at all universities within a single country.

“Our previous research shows that Māori and Pacific academics are severely under-represented in New Zealand universities making up approximately 5% and 1% of all academics, respectively. This present research shows that they are also less likely to be promoted, and are paid substantially less than other university academics irrespective of their research performance.

“Universities are currently making decisions around restructures and freezing promotions and new hires as a result of the current COVID-19 situation. Not only are Māori/Pacific academics severely under-represented in New Zealand universities but many are clustered in the junior ranks of academia where jobs and incomes are more precarious. Changes due to restructuring risk further widening the gap between Māori and Pacific and non-Māori/Pacific academics. This will have flow-on effects for years to come.

“Universities need to urgently address the racial disparities in promotion, retention and recruitment of Māori and Pacific academics, establish a system that values and rewards Māori and Pacific scholarship and work towards building a sustainable Tiriti-led Māori and Pacific academic workforce.”

Tara McAllister is the author of this paper.

Professor Troy Baisden, School of Science, University of Waikato; and President of the New Zealand Association of Scientists, comments:

“This year has seen a growing set of studies quantifying inequality in New Zealand’s research and academic systems. Our research system is not the meritocracy many thought it was. We can and should work to fix the problems.

“The latest work uses a very large dataset to confirm there’s a double-hit for female academics who are also Māori or Pasifika. A striking point is that these pieces of work are now building up data, methodology and evidence in a cumulative way. Progressively, each piece of research is stronger and has more precise conclusions.

“Only a year ago, it was possible to claim there was a lack of firm evidence for any problems in our system. This is a big change. It’s also timely, because the effect of the pandemic on researchers and on budgets is likely to be exacerbating the inequality observed in this study. The pandemic’s disruption could make inequality much worse, but also creates opportunities for change to address diversity issues.

“Institutions and the wider system should now be taking steps to both address the factors leading to inequality, and to better quantify and understand the impacts of the challenges researchers face when they are bringing the diversity of perspectives present in our society to academic research and teaching.”

No conflict of interest.

Associate Professor Nicola Gaston, Department of Physics, University of Auckland, comments:

“This new study builds on existing literature demonstrating how the gender pay gap is contributed to through inequities in university promotions relative to research performance, as well as considerable documentation of the systemic problems academia has with exclusion of Māori and Pacific academics. As such, the conclusions of this study are not at all surprising — but they are shocking, and they are important.

“It is particularly shocking because Māori and Pacific academics have a disproportionately large expectation that they contribute to the pastoral care of students, a responsibility that falls under the teaching or service contributions to an academic workload. Since promotions are supposed to be based on the full academic workload — roughly a third each on teaching, service, and research — the idea that people are under-promoted relative to their research performance, as measured in the PBRF evaluation, represents a dramatic double whammy in the inequity it demonstrates.

“Serious reform of our promotion processes in universities in New Zealand should be an immediate priority as a consequence.”

No conflict of interest declared.

Dr Tyron Love, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Business and Economics, University of Auckland, comments:

“The authors are well placed to make the observations they have as they have been in this space for some time. They draw our attention to important intersecting elements in the ongoing debate around the relationship between Māori and Pacific academics and their universities.

“The inequities are disturbing and have been for some time as these authors have highlighted. They offer new data at the senior and remuneration levels to compliment that earlier work which is very useful for those of us looking in to similar institutional issues. The interventions the authors suggest are quite clear.

“It will be interesting to see where the authors go next particularly as universities are heading down the path of re-writing their strategies and policies, as well as making hard calls around remuneration and changing job descriptions post covid-19. Universities will either embrace some of the changes the authors suggest or they’ll hunker down and dismiss them as fanciful pursuits in a time of economic uncertainty which is sure to last.”

No conflict of interest declared.

Professor Edwina Pio, Professor of Diversity & University Director of Diversity, Auckland University of Technology, comments:

“Inequities for Māori and Pacific have been an ongoing festering wound in the makeup of our beautiful Aotearoa. Despite rhetoric and some excellent actions towards making Aotearoa more equitable, the reality in organisations, and also in universities, leaves much to be desired.

“It is in this context that the report, and its analysis on inequities in Māori and Pacific promotions and earnings in NZ universities utilising data from New Zealand’s Performance Based Research Fund (PBRF), is to be welcomed and applauded.

“The authors stress the need for systemic change and the consideration of intersectional identities, to meaningfully and authentically respond to and incorporate the spirit and letter of Te Tiriti partnership. Worryingly, the data presented indicates that pay gaps and promotion barriers continue to rear their ugly heads. Furthermore, there seems to be minimal acknowledgement of the wider contributions made by Māori and Pacific peoples, in particular to their communities, in how academics are promoted and the accolades they receive.

“Though universities in New Zealand have diversity policies and practices, there is greater need for accountability and tracking how these policies are enacted. While change can be committed to, there is need to acknowledge that change is a slow process.

“This reinforces the urgent need that spaces for Māori and Pacific peoples, when created, must be embraced and protected for change to be embedded. Here it is necessary to stress the significance of assertive stances, rather than aggressive ones, and equilibrium in how data is presented and analysed.

“For example, it would be appropriate to compare the earnings of the cohort of Māori and Pacific women with the non-Māori and Pacific women, rather than with the non-Māori and Pacific men. It would also be instructive to clearly indicate that there has been some percentage increase in PBRF submission rounds for 2003, 2012 and 2018 with Māori and Pacific women marginally showing a higher percentage of submissions as compared to men, in contrast to the non-Māori and Pacific women and men, where women have fewer submissions.

“It is also essential, as the authors have pointed out, for qualitative research in this area. It may be possible, that Māori and Pacific peoples may not choose to enter academia at the same rate as non-Māori and Pacific peoples. It would also be useful to clearly indicate the years of service that Māori and Pacific academics have in universities and this linkage to promotions and earnings. A comparison with non-Pākēha ethnic groups such as Indian, Chinese, African and other visible minority migrants may also make for useful analysis and recommendations.

“Additionally, it is crucial to ensure that Māori and Pacific academics have a seat when strategic initiatives are developed and planned, so that silences can be unmasked and voices of reason, re-distribution and relationality are honoured.

“The wairua and multiple threads that make up the fabric of our woven universe need to be constantly woven in a dynamic weave for leadership, institutional capital, and realistic targets. It is here that the ethos of kaitiakitanga of and for all peoples must be recognised.

“It is pertinent to note that academics who are non-Māori and Pacific, but who have dreamed and worked with Indigenous peoples impelled by that spark of wairua must be acknowledged.

“For collaborative realities can be dreamed into existence – long may there be dreaming, reality and accountabilities, for reducing inequities in Māori and Pacific promotions and earning in NZ universities.”

Conflict of interest: I am an elected member on AUT Council and also University Director of Diversity.