Scotland: 2 decades after Equal Pay & SD Acts men still dominate university professors/sen.lecturers Print E-mail

 Edinburgh -- Monday July 10 2006

Women make up almost half the academic workforce but 86 per cent of professors are men [Picture: Bob Schatz/Getty]

Women denied top jobs by glass ceiling in universities

KEVIN SCHOFIELD EDUCATION CORRESPONDENT
Despite rising numbers, women lecturers look to be getting poorer deals in higher education
'Glass ceiling' seems to have got worse over last decade
Universities say they have 'robust systems' in place to ensure promotion
Key quote
"Things are changing - but slowly. At some levels, such as the number of women professors, the lack of women is stark and progress slow or non-existent." - Scottish Funding Council report

Story in full: WOMEN are being denied access to the most senior university jobs despite a continuing increase in the numbers of female staff in higher education, according to research published today.

The "glass ceiling" which has been blamed for curtailing the career aspirations of women in the public and private sectors appears to be worsening in Scotland's universities.

The report, published by the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), shows that while 40 per cent of academic staff are female, women account for only 20 per cent of senior lecturers and just 14 per cent of professors.

The research also shows that although more women than ever are working in Scotland's universities, the gender balance has actually got worse over the last decade.

The SFC, which is responsible for distributing government funds to Scotland's universities, says higher education institutions must do more in future to improve the gender balance.

"It could be argued that the current gender ratio among staff has historical roots and reflects the gender ratio in participation when the current staff were students," the report says.

"Things are changing - but slowly. At some levels, such as the number of women professors, the lack of women is stark and progress slow or non-existent.

"Universities need to look at why this is: is there a glass ceiling; a lack of opportunities for career breaks; a long-hours culture?

"The Scottish Executive has made it clear that it wants the SFC to continue to encourage good practice in equal opportunities.

"The SFC and its partners will look more closely at whether best practice can be producing outcomes such as the current ones."

In 1997-98, according to the report, Gender in Scottish Higher Education: what's the issue?, 33 per cent of university academics in Scotland were women. By 2003-4, that figure had reached 40 per cent.

However, the proportion reaching professorial level dropped from 15 per cent to 14 per cent over the same period.

John Kemp, a planning and policy officer at the SFC, said that from next year, all bodies in the public sector will be under a legal obligation to promote gender equality and that his organisation would assist universities to create a better gender balance.

"At first glance this is certainly an issue that would seem to require some investigation," he said.

"The percentage of academic staff who are women has gone up quite rapidly, and we would hope that would lead to greater numbers getting senior posts.

"But from the current evidence that hasn't happened yet, so we will be supporting higher education institutions to look at ways of addressing this issue."

A report earlier this year by the Equal Opportunities Commission showed that despite making up almost half the national workforce, women were struggling to gain top posts across a range of professions.

Just 11 per cent of the FTSE 100 companies had women directors, while women made up just 9 per cent of the senior judiciary and 10 per cent of senior police officers.

Universities contacted by The Scotsman insisted they already had robust systems in place to ensure women gain promotion.

A spokeswoman for Edinburgh University said they had "a long-standing history of commitment to equality of opportunity". She added: "There is evidence through rigorous monitoring processes that, for academic grades, women are as likely to be promoted as men within the university."

A Glasgow University spokesman said: "While the university recognises that this is a long-term issue, we believe that the policies we have in place are helping to address gender inequalities."

But David Bleiman, the Scottish official of the University and Colleges Union, said the sector could do much more to increase the number of women in senior posts.

He said: "It is shocking that more than two decades after the Equal Pay and the Sex Discrimination Acts, we still have an academic profession in which the vast majority of the top jobs at professorial and senior lecturer level are held by men."

Robin McAlpine, the spokesman for Universities Scotland, the umbrella body representing the sector, conceded institutions could do more to encourage women to go for top jobs.