There is a silent crisis going in college swimming. Silent because it's happening so slowly and to an already disadvantaged set of people (women) that it hardly gets any attention at all. That women are disadvantaged in college swimming is obvious. What is not obvious is that things are getting worse.
I sat down last night to comb through publicly available salary data for college swim coaches. Due to public accountability laws, salary information for state university employees exists in searchable databases in many cases. Many large state universities are also some of the highest performing college swimming and diving programs.
I had a theory- that much like many other fields, women were getting paid less. What I found was horrifying. Not only are women getting paid less to do the same work, they are sometimes getting paid less than their male counterparts despite more experience, time served and education at the same institution.
The Not Bosses
I looked at combined (men's and women's) programs from power conferences (SEC/ACC/B1G). Why? Because these are programs with large coaching staffs (allowed up to six coaches on the same staff). In all cases I looked at there was at least one female staff member, (in one case two).
I excluded head coaches, because head coaches of combined programs in these large programs are overwhelmingly male. Courtney Hart (my former boss) remains the only woman coaching a combined program in a "power" conference. Likewise if you look at the collegeswimming.com top 50 ranking of Division 1 teams (men and women), there are only one female head coach of a combined program, Mandy Commons-Disalle at Cincinnati.
Any comparison including these two women would unfairly single them out, something which I have taken great pains to avoid.
I averaged the salary of non-head coach staff members (male) and compared that with the female average for twelve schools for which such data was readily available. The average male salary was $70,000 a year, while the average female salary was $56,000. This is means that women are earning 79% of what men are for similar positions at these institutions.
The "Good" Jobs
Here is where you may interject and say "well, this post has a dramatic title, 79% is pretty much the same as the nationally cited pay gap". A couple of reasons why this figure is more dramatic than you might assume:
First, the biggest reason for this huge gap in non-head coach salaries is that the better positions are overwhelmingly filled with men. The "special" assistant coach titles like "Associate Head Coach" or "Head Assistant Coach" or however coaches are promoted internally, are almost unanimously male.
Likewise, diving coach positions, which often pay better than normal assistant coaching positions, are almost unanimously male at these top programs. In one of two instances where a woman held an associate head coach position, she dramatically swung what was going to be a far worse gap in salaries.
If you think that a fair, merit-based system has resulted in men almost unanimously having these jobs, then I have a membership fee at ASCA to sign you up for. Finally, these are the schools where salaries are easily researched. The people making these salary decisions know this information can be found! Imagine what is happening at private schools or other places with less public accountability.
But wait! There's more
Other highlights/lowlights from my research:
-At one school, despite a female coach having nearly a decade of experience, she was paid less than two fresh faced male assistant coaches added within the last couple years
-At the other school with a female associate head coach, she was paid half (!) the salary of the male associate head coach.
-In the only program with multiple female staff members, a female staff member with a Doctorate (in a relevant field) was payed a lower salary than the men despite two of those men only having bachelors degrees.
'Tis The Season
The college hiring season is in full swing. Here are some things you can count on:
-If a female assistant coach leaves a position open and she was the only female working for a male head coach at a women's program or a combined program, it will be "unofficially" required that the opening be filled with a female.
This unofficial affirmative action does little to help women, and in fact allows Athletic Directors and Coaches to pat themselves on the back as if they are actually making an effort to make a fair playing field for female coaches
-Returning assistants often are evaluated around this time, and have their one year contracts renewed in June/July. Salaries are negotiated. Want help researching if you're getting a fair salary? I can help
-One of the most powerful women in college swimming, Susan Teeter, is retiring. Whether or not her job is filled by a man will determine whether it follows a national trend, where female coaches from the early days of NCAA sports have generally been replaced by men as the salaries and stature of those positions improve.
Up next, how can we as stakeholders in college swimming make this situation better?
Do you want information on how to improve the gender diversity of your team or coaching staff. Write me