Position of Women Academics Not Improved Since 2001

Woman with book According to a recent Guardian article about the number of women employees at major research universities shows that compared to 2001 women still remain significantly under-represented in the research-intensive areas of science, engineering and technology subjects, particularly at senior levels. They are more likely to be employed on lower grades, on fixed term contracts, and less likely than men to be doing research. Interestingly, a recent Australian study found that 42.6% of women academics compared to 26.5% of men see welfare and pastoral care as a workload activity. This is no suprise. Many of the women in academia I speak to feel a great sense of responsiblity towards their students and take this pastoral element of teaching very seriously. This element should be given more public recognition as it is an invaluable use of time but one that invariably takes away from research and publication time which is where grants and promotions are more likely to be given. A coincidence? Don't bet on it.    

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  • http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/offices/hr/equality/wiseti/recruitment.html Esther Haines

    Nicola Dandridge’s article in the Guardian makes a very good point. It is likely that analysis of submitted and non-submitted staff in the 2008 RAE by equality groups will show that women and members of ethnic minorities are under-represented despite the efforts made to ensure that the processes were fair. This is because they are less likely to be in senior and permanent positions and are therefore less likely to have had the resources to produce as many high quality research outputs. The progress of a woman’s career is the cumulative effect of many decisions made by managers, colleagues and the woman herself. Sometimes these decisions relate to the operation of an institution’s formal policies and processes. Sometimes they relate to the shared implicit assumptions of the workplace. Because the effects are cumulative it is important that all processes, including the RAE, be examined for possible adverse effects on women’s careers.
    Often the implicit assumptions of the SET workplace value some activities more than others. In particular, welfare and pastoral roles may be devalued by the prevailing culture, yet important to individual women.
    There is a useful factsheet that discusses the layers of organizational culture, how they are relevant to women’s careers in SET in HE, and what can be done to improve the situation on the SWAN Charter website, http://www.athenaswan.org.uk under ‘Good Practice’.