League exposes glass ceiling for female professors under glass celing

Author: FRAN ABRAMS Education Correspondent

At the top of the list are some of the newest universities. Almost a third of professors at South Bank University in London and more than a quarter at Oxford Brookes, both former polytechnics, are female. However, some older institutions such as King’s College, London, have promoted a higher than average number of female academics.

At the bottom of the list is the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, where not one of the 94 professors was female when the table was compiled.

This probably reflects the fact that UMIST has a high proportion of science and technology courses which tend to attract high proportions of male students and staff. Less than one per cent of the 774 engineering professors in the United Kingdom are female.

However, women do better in medicine, where they hold 14 per cent of professorships, as well as in social science, economics and politics (12 per cent) and librarianship (29 per cent).

The introduction to the study, entitled Beyond the Glass Ceiling, is written by Helena Kennedy QC, who is also chancellor of Oxford Brookes University.

In it she says that the selection panels which have no set criteria for choosing new professors may plump for a male candidate because his female colleague is “not what they know, what they have always had, what they can trust”.

Academics whose work concerns women tend to be marginalised, she says, and the subjects which attract women are often undervalued. As a result, the most ambitious women avoid those areas, fearing that they may be downgraded as a result. The only way to achieve a higher status for women academics is to put them on to more appointments panels, she suggests.

“Unless real value is attached to ‘female’ qualities, the consequence could be that women remain locked into negative identities,” she says.

Among the female professors featured in the book is Gillian Morriss-Kay, one of 18 women out of 162 academics who won newly-created chairs at Oxford last month. Her new status has not won her a higher salary, but she applauds the university’s efforts to appoint more women. The number has risen from just four in 1989 to 30 today – a total of eight per cent.

“The achievement of Oxford University in making this change should not be underestimated: even evolutionary change does not go down well here and this has been revolution,” she said.

Beyond the Glass Ceiling , edited by Sian Griffiths, is published by Manchester University Press with the Times Higher Education Supplement, price pounds 9.99.

Where women have turned the tide

Universities with the highest proportion of female professors:

1. South Bank 32.6%

2. Oxford Brookes 26.1%

3. Kings College, London 17.1%

4. Royal Postgrad Med Schl 14.9%

5. Stirling 14.3%

6. Open University 13.7%

7. City 12.9%

8. York 12.8%

9. Brit Postgrad Med Fed 12.5%

10. Napier 11.4%

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