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Gender Equity in Salaries Achieved for Some Information Professionals, but Not for Others
Posted On November 1, 1999
Women and men working as special librarians and information professionals are paid the same, according to the 1999 Annual Salary Survey of the Special Libraries Association (SLA, In the U.S., the median full-time salary of female SLA members ($49,550) actually exceeded that of male colleagues ($48,672). In Canada, the median earnings matched ($52,000).

The SLA notes that this marks the first time in history that the median salaries of female information professionals have equaled or exceeded those of male information professionals. The change occurred over several decades, with women receiving relatively higher percentage increases in pay than men. From 1976 to 1999, women's salaries rose 237 percent while men's increased only 169 percent.

The 1999 Salary Survey also showed a shrinking gap for the mean salary, but mean earnings are not yet at parity. Mean salary is $700 more for men than for women in the U.S. ($53,440 vs. $52,730) and $500 more for men than for women in Canada ($55,646 vs. $55,149). Ruth Arnold, SLA's director of research, indicated that most salary distributions prefer the median to the mean as a valid measurement, since it eliminates the overweighting of high and low outliers. The two highest-paying title categories in Canada and the U.S. are chief information officer/vice president/executive and owner/principal/consultant.

David R. Bender, executive director of SLA, said: "Several factors have contributed to these trends. Both the U.S. and Canada have established laws that prohibit discrimination in pay on the basis of gender. Increasingly, we are finding that women are being placed in higher-level jobs with appropriate titles, thus placing them in leadership positions within their enterprises. We are ecstatic to see the trend reaching this point as we lead the way into the next century."

The Special Libraries Association will release its 1999 SLA Annual Salary Survey in this month, charging members $45 and nonmembers $54. For a copy, contact SLA's Publications Department at 202/939-3673 or e-mail SLA has some 15,000 members in 60 countries. The survey questionnaire went out to 5,000 U.S. members and to all 1,000 Canadian members; it had a 42-percent return rate.

SLA is the first professional librarian group to report the elimination (or reversal) of the gender gap in salaries. Other professional societies for librarians and information professionals have reported slow but steady decreases in the gap. The Association of Research Libraries covers data taken from a census of all the 12,219 professional positions in all their 122 member libraries, both non-university research libraries (3,819 positions) and university research libraries (8,400 positions). Their breakdowns include specific job categories and functions, experience level, and minority status. The ARL 1998-1999 Annual Salary Survey [] reports mixed findings with women's average salaries exceeding men in some areas and falling behind in others. Overall the mean salary for the 4,427 women represented was $48,430 while the 2552 men were paid $51,696. On the other hand, the 52 women directors were paid an average of $124,176, while the 58 men directors were paid only $120,191.

The American Library Association ( does not tap its 55,000 members to produce its ALA Survey of Librarian Salaries. Instead, it takes a sample of 1,200 academic and public libraries that have at least two full-time accredited M.L.S.'s on staff and query management. In its latest survey for 1999, the ALA asked for salary data by sex for directors only. The unpublished results from the 95 percent of the 869 respondents who answered the question indicated that, for both the academic and public libraries surveyed, 61 percent of the directors were women with an average salary of $61,614, while the men making up the remaining 39 percent had an average salary of $68,586.

New librarians get the benefit of salary shifts as well. The 48th annual Placements and Salaries Survey by Library Journal ("Vicki L. Gregory, "Beating Inflation Now," October 15, 1999, pp. 36-42) indicated that overall starting salaries for new graduates had increased 5.4 percent, from $30,270 in 1997 to $31,915 in 1998. In comparison with the cost of living (up 1.7 percent over a year), librarian salaries rose 5.4 percent. Overall, the survey showed that gender inequity for library professionals may soon vanish. Mean salaries for women nationwide were $31,852; for men, $32,178. Median salaries for women were $30,000; for men, $31,000. In the Northeast and Southeast regions, 1998 women library school graduates received higher average starting salaries than men.

Barbara Quint was senior editor of Online Searcher, co-editor of The Information Advisor’s Guide to Internet Research, and a columnist for Information Today.

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