Hundreds of female professors working in higher education in the UK have joined forces to write letters to university officials urging them to abandon planned cuts in their pensions, arguing that they would have an disproportionately detrimental effect on female educators.
More than 800 senior women working in the sector have signed a letter to Universities UK, an umbrella organization representing higher education institutions, expressing their “deep concern” and calling for a last-minute review.
Despite repeated industrial activity on campus across the UK by members of the University and College Union (UCU), major changes to the UK’s largest private pension scheme, the Universities Supervolution Scheme (USS), are set to take effect on 1 April. )
The letter noted that women have been adversely affected by the existing pension scheme due to gender pay gap at all stages of their careers and because the scheme penalizes those who have taken a career break due to caring responsibilities.
However, it warns that the change structure, which according to UCU will reduce the guaranteed retirement income of an ordinary member by 35%, will have a “gender impact” that should be taken into account.
“In particular, cuts to the defined benefit portion of the USS scheme – which provides a guaranteed income for life – can disproportionately affect women because we typically spend more years in retirement,” the letter said.
“Also, the sheer scale of the cuts will exacerbate the situation for future generations of women in academia, exacerbating the irresistible trade-off between early career flexibility and the risk of financial uncertainty in old age.”
The letter argued that the proposed reforms were based on a flawed assessment of the scheme, which was carried out in March 2020 at the bottom of the market. “It simply came to our notice then.
Pushing changes without proper care for equity would “seriously undermine the well-being of women and other protected groups, undermining the commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion,” the letter added.
Ann Pollock, a professor of global health and social medicine at King’s College London and one of the founders of the letter, said: Impact analysis.
“If our universities want to claim that they support equity for women and other protected groups, they must ensure that the impact of any cuts does not fall disproportionately on the same groups that have already been mistreated by this project.”
A spokesman for the UUK emphasized that fairness, equity, diversity and inclusion have been taken into account and said employers have conducted equity impact assessments on changes and the impact of higher spending otherwise introduced.
“The response to the recent consultations on the changes by members and their representative bodies shows that capacity is a major concern, and especially for protected groups,” the spokesman said. “USS will remain one of the most lucrative pension schemes in the country.”