A few years ago, women's volleyball Head Coach Diane Short was talking with a male friend who had recently taken a coaching position at another school. Expecting their salaries to be comparable, he asked her how much money she made. "I answered him, and his mouth dropped," she said.
"We're not really supposed to talk about that sort of thing," Short said. "That was my only real sign of the disparity."
In a bold admission, President Ruth Simmons owned up to the gap between men's and women's coaches last month in her response to the Athletics Review Committee's recommendations. Simmons recommended diminishing the disparity in the next fiscal year.
The University has been heading in the opposite direction recently, according to figures compiled by the Office of Postsecondary Education. In the fiscal year that ended in June 2010, head coaches of men's teams made an average $74,207 a year, while head coaches of women's teams made an average $54,794. Last year, the gap widened further. Head coaches of men's teams made an average $81,151 — an increase of almost $7,000 — while head coaches of women's teams made an average of $55,977 — a $1,184 increase.
Assistant coaches of women's teams also take home significantly lower salaries than do their male counterparts. A men's team assistant coach earns an average $34,671, while a women's team assistant coach brings in only $26,306.
But Margaret Klawunn, vice president for campus life and student services, said Simmons' use of the word "disparity" did not mean inequity. "If there was inequity or discrimination, then that would be a problem," she said.
The rest of the league also does not pay comparable salaries to the coaches of men's and women's teams. Yale is the most egregious offender, paying its women's teams' head coaches an average of $46,140 less than their male counterparts.
Women's teams' coaches salaries are not protected or regulated under Title IX, the law requiring federally funded athletic programs to offer similar opportunities to men and women, Klawunn said.
Cory Abbe '13, co-chair of University relations on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and captain of the women's fencing team, agreed. "It's weird that there's nothing that regulates how women versus male team coaches are treated," she said.
But salaries were an issue in the Title IX lawsuit the University lost in 1995, when it tried to cut four varsity sports, including women's gymnastics and women's volleyball, said Howard Chudacoff, professor of American history and the University's faculty representative to the NCAA.
The members of the gymnastics and volleyball teams argued that women athletes were not treated fairly at Brown, receiving worse locker rooms and practice times than males.
The teams argued that "coaches were not treated as equally in terms of salaries," Chudacoff said. "Brown promised to improve the coaches' salaries, at least up to market conditions."
It is unclear whether the University has fulfilled its promise.
"The argument has always been that salaries are determined by the market," Chudacoff said. "And if male hockey coaches get an average X salary, and female hockey coaches get X-minus-20-percent salaries, then that's the norm that we should aspire to."
The University has been looking at coaches' salaries at Brown's competitors to determine market levels, Klawunn said. The University will also use an additional $1.1 million to raise coaches' and administrators' salaries throughout the Athletics Department next fiscal year if the University Resources Committee approves the proposal.
In the last fiscal year, Brown head coaches were paid an average of 17 percent less than their Ivy League competitors.
Short said the amount of funding a team can raise may also play a role in the disparity. Since women's teams are still relatively young in comparison to men's, women have a smaller alumni base and thus a harder time fundraising, she said.
Disparity in salaries also has to do with women's sports being less marketable in general, said field hockey Head Coach Jill Reeve, but that could be changing with the advent of popular women's professional sports leagues. "It's an evolution," she said. "We have to be patient."
But because no sport at the University brings in more money than it spends, the marketability of women's and men's sports likely has no effect on salaries, said Ryan McDuff '13, co-president of Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
Precisely for these reasons, Chudacoff said the salary gap at the University should be diminished. "At a place like Brown, where no sport earns money ... there should be less disparity between gender and coaches' salaries than there is at a school where football and men's basketball, and maybe even women's basketball, earns a lot of money for the school," he said. "I'm in favor of at least narrowing — if not ending — the disparities."
Factoring in the NCAA
Men's lacrosse Head Coach Lars Tiffany '90 said he believes the salary disparities nationwide are not caused by women's sports as a whole being less marketable. Instead, football and men's and women's basketball are most marketable at the expense of all other sports, he said.
"How much money goes into the football system? How much goes into basketball?" he asked. "It's an astronomical contract that they have with the NCAA. I never really thought about it as a male-versus-female marketability. The rest of us don't garner as much media attention."
Instead of basing salaries on media attention, Tiffany said salaries should be determined by the quality of the coach.
"It would be nice if it was just based on years of experience, the talent of the coach," he said. "You could be a bad football coach and still make a lot more money than a field hockey coach."
Reeve also cited NCAA regulations and media attention as key factors contributing to the salary gap.
"It's not the fault of the University, it's a national issue," she said. "The NCAA has just gotten out of hand. What some schools offer, it's shocking, it's alarming. I hope it's in the NCAA's vision to start to rein that in."
She said coaches of men's teams should take some pay cuts to lessen the disparity, rather than coaches of women's teams getting a raise. "I think some men's coaches are grossly overpaid," she said. "If they're getting paid more than the president of the university, they shouldn't be."
Just the way it is
The numbers compiled by the Office of Postsecondary Education detail salary discrepancies between coaches of women's teams and coaches of men's teams — not salaries of women coaches versus men coaches. But because most women's teams are coached by women, female coaches are generally paid less than male coaches. In her recommendations, Simmons admitted "disparities in compensation between men and women in the (Athletics) Department" and recommended diminishing them.
The disparity between salaries of men and women exists not only because of marketability or NCAA regulations, but also because it is a cultural norm, Reeve and Abbe agreed.
Nationwide, women make only 77 cents for every dollar men earn, according to 2009 U.S. Census Bureau statistics. The numbers between women in the workforce and coaches of women's teams — which may be male — cannot be directly compared. But head coaches of women's teams — who are predominantly female — are paid an average of 69 cents to every male team's head coach's dollar. Assistant coaches of women's teams are more in line wi
th the national average, receiving 76 cents for every dollar earned by an assistant coach of a men's team. Brown employs no female head coaches for any male teams, according to the Office of Postsecondary Education data.
It is difficult for women to fight for equality when society looks down on strong women, Short said. "I just think that the way society looks at women, they expect us to be so passive," she said. "And when you have women who speak up, society looks at them like they're witches and other things. I just think it's important for women to be able to talk."
With the attention of the University Resources Committee now focused on better aligning coaches' salaries at Brown, Tiffany said he hopes the University will adjust salaries based on the experience and quality of coaches, which should lessen the gender gap.
As a new coach, Reeve said she was aware these issues were being addressed before she accepted her position.
Short, who came to Brown 19 years ago, said, "I guess I just always felt, in due time, things would be fixed." For now, she will keep waiting.