Women poorly represented in senior positions in Higher Education

A RECENT publication by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) has shown how poorly represented females are in senior positions in the higher education sector. Out of the 194,245 academic staff employed by higher education providers in the last academic year, only 45% of the staff were women, making up 22% of Professors and only 33% of other senior academic staff. In contrast women make up the majority of non-academic staff at 63%. at 63%. They also hold 54% of managerial, professional, and technical staff positions and 82% of clerical staff positions within higher education providers.

In 2003/4 only 15% of academic staff graded “Professor” were female and there is evidence of a trend showing a rate of progression; over 10 years there has been an increase in female professors by 7%. However, since 2003/4, the category definitions used by HESA, including that of ‘Professor’ have changed, thus meaning that the original data is not strictly comparable to the current data. A further breakdown of the data found that one of the only areas where there is a more equal ratio of male to female staff is Professors between the ages of 26 to 30; with 10 female professors and 15 male professors. An area that the ratio of male to female staff is equal is in the role of other senior academic staff in the age bracket 26 to 30 years old. This breakdown shows that younger women dominate managerial, technical and professional staff as well as clerical staff between the ages of 26 to 45 years.

Aberystwyth University Vice-Chancellor April MaMahon.

Aberystwyth University Vice-Chancellor April MaMahon.

Vice-Chancellor Professor April McMahon said:

“The under-representation of women in Higher Education, particularly at more senior levels means that a wealth of talent and diversity of approach is missing. At Aberystwyth University we are committed to promoting diversity and equal opportunities, and to valuing everyone’s talents and contributions. We are working together to build an institution which is inclusive and values the diverse nature of our staff, students and community. 2014 proved to be an important year in developing opportunities for women at Aberystwyth University.

Female colleagues received support from the University to follow the Aurora Leadership Foundation for Higher Education (LFHE), a new women-only leadership development initiative that was launched in late 2013 and developed to address under-represented in senior leadership positions. The University also received its first Athena SWAN Charter Award that recognises commitment to advancing women’s careers in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) in higher education and research. It also became one of only five HE institutions to be awarded the Equality Challenge Unit’s (ECU) trial Gender Equality Charter Mark (GEM) – the first award scheme that recognises progress in advancing gender equality in arts, humanities and social science careers in higher education.

And, towards the end of 2014, the first cohort of female colleagues from academic and service departments completed the Springboard Women’s Development Programme which is designed for women from all backgrounds, ages and stages in their lives who want to make a better world for themselves at work and home. These are notable developments and represent real progress, and I’m delighted to report that the percentage of female applicants during the most recent academic promotions round was up from 25% to 41%. The University is now working on action plans that stem from Athena Swan and GEM to further promote career progression and promotion opportunities for female colleagues.”