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When men take home 94% of the top 50 Maryland state government salaries, you’ve got a diversity problem | COMMENTARY

University of Maryland Medical Center's Weinberg Atrium. The hospital and the University of Maryland School of Medicine are home to some of the state's most highly paid employees.
University of Maryland Medical Center's Weinberg Atrium. The hospital and the University of Maryland School of Medicine are home to some of the state's most highly paid employees.(JED KIRSCHBAUM / Baltimore Sun)

Maryland state government has long faced the same diversity challenges that all U.S. employers face: White males tend to populate the top jobs and earn higher pay than women and minorities. It’s still true today (and more about that in a moment). But rarely, at least not in the year 2020, do you see numbers quite as glaring as those revealed by The Sun’s Jeff Barker who discovered that 47 of the 50 top-salaried state employees in Maryland are men. All of them are in higher education, incidentally, which was all-but-certain given that even Gov. Larry Hogan earns just $179,000 annually, less than half what it takes to crack the top-50. Sorry, governor, but you’re not even Maryland’s top paid Hogan. That honor goes to the University of Maryland’s Patrick N. Hogan, a former delegate who works in government relations with a posted salary of $211,000 — $22,000 more than the governor.

This is scandalous but not necessarily in the way one might assume. Higher education’s richest of the rich are, first, its athletic coaches, including University of Maryland’s men’s basketball coach Mark Turgeon whose $3 million wage puts him at the top of the list and UM’s women’s basketball coach Brenda Frese, the top woman on the list and No. 3 overall at $1.3 million. One can complain all day that winning games shouldn’t be deserving of higher pay than saving lives or teaching the next generation, but it’s a somewhat self-contained economy with its own sometimes painful realities that have broad public acceptance. Tax dollars aren’t going to Mr. Turgeon or Ms. Frese, it’s revenue from TV contracts and ticket sales. The more they win, the more the school benefits and, as a result, the more they tend to get paid. Much of the rest of the list is drawn from University of Maryland School of Medicine, with doctors like Bartley P. Griffith, a cardiac surgeon (ranked 11th at $763,000), who earns much of his compensation by seeing patients, not from being a professor. So, again, tax dollars are not the primary issue.

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None of this excuses the gender imbalance, of course. It merely reveals the complexity of it. On the macro-level, Maryland state government doesn’t look nearly as bad as an employer, but it doesn’t look that great either. The most recent analysis provided by the Maryland Department of Budget and Management estimates that male state employees earned an average of $6,167 more than women state employees in fiscal 2019, and the salary gap has expanded since 2014. The imbalance is actually worse by race. White state workers were paid an average of $62,771, compared to $52,689 for African-American employees during that same period. DBM helps explain the imbalance by observing that white men represent a higher percentage of the executive pay plan (Grade 24 and above), while most women and African-Americans work at Grade 13 and below.

In other words, it’s not that the state pays women or blacks less

, it’s that they don’t hire them for the top posts.

Governor Hogan’s cabinet reflects this trend. Just seven of the two-dozen positions in his executive council are filled by women, none of whom are African American. Of the 12 schools in the University System of Maryland, just three have women presidents (in the past, it has been as many as five). Again, that’s not to mislead. Maryland schools appear to be making strides in diversity. Since 2015, state universities increased total faculty by 1,387 or 9% with most of the growth coming from female hires (931), according to the USM Office of Institutional Research. Overall, women now fill about 48% of the teaching posts at USM schools (up from 46% five years ago).

So while the top-50 list is an imperfect measure of what’s going on in state government employment (unless one is tracking sports and health care), there is reason to be concerned that there’s not only more to be done to promote diversity, but that some backsliding has been taking place. Make no mistake, Maryland is far from unusual in this regard. Other states face the same challenge, particularly within medicine and athletics. But it’s clear that, in Maryland, there’s been insufficient emphasis on diversity hiring and promotion of state employees in recent years, and the overall numbers reflect that.

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