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Sports

Harvard Will Adjust Female Coaches’ Pay, Per State Law

6.14.18


In an email sent to coaches this morning, Harvard Athletics acknowledged an inequitable disparity between salaries for men and women—essentially, that some women coaches have been underpaid—and announced a series of “adjustments” to rectify the imbalance.

The announcement comes as the Massachusetts Act to Establish Pay Equity (MEPA) is set to take effect on July 1. Building on a 1945 state law mandating equal pay, MEPA is intended to clarify what constitutes illegal wage discrimination and to add protections for workplace fairness. In Massachusetts, on average, women working full time make only 84.3 percent of what men earn. A similar wage gap persists among Harvard coaches. According to data from the U.S. Department of Education, during the 2016-17 school year, the average salary for men’s team head coaches was $116,793; for women’s teams, it was $81,814. Assistant coaches for men’s teams earned an average of $55,459, while women’s team assistants earned $39,934. Gender at least somewhat underlies those differences: no women served as head coaches for men’s teams, and only five women were assistants on men’s teams. Half the head coaches of women’s teams were men, and men made up 24 of 49 assistant coaches on women’s teams.  

In addition, 12 men’s team coaching positions are endowed, as are another six positions for individuals who serve as coaches for both men’s and women’s squads. Among women’s teams, there are five endowed coaching positions. (MEPA permits differences in pay based on seniority, merit, revenue, education, and experience, among other factors). 

The email, signed by athletics director Bob Scalise, did not specify how many salaries would need to be adjusted, and athletics officials declined to give those numbers for the record. Scalise was not available for comment. The letter did specify, though, that no salaries would be lowered. 

Prompted by MEPA, the University spent nearly a year reviewing its “compensation framework” for coaching staff. After six months of research and analysis, the athletics department held a series of focus groups this past winter and invited coaches to discuss which factors to consider in reshaping its compensation model. The result, according to the email, is a model built on three factors: 

  • Coaching level (head coach, assistant coach, etc.)
  • Program size, scope, responsibility, and complexity, including athlete-to-coach ratio, recruiting complexity, alumni giving participation rates, and revenue generation
  • Experience 

“Applying this model, we conducted a careful and thorough review of all coaching and coaching staff compensation in the context of non-gendered market data for each sport,” Scalise wrote in the message. The pay adjustments will be made in two phases, because of the current “fiscally constrained environment”: the first set of adjustments will be made July 1, and a second set during the second half of the 2018-19 academic year. 

In addition, Scalise wrote, all coaches with a satisfactory job performance rating are eligible for a 2.5 percent merit raise. 

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