Forward, march! 2

February 7, 2008

After reading June Purvis ("In search of women's writes", 24 January) I asked myself why I had never written to Times Higher Education. One possible explanation is that as a woman I don't feel much discriminated against in society, but I do feel discriminated against in academia.

A recent article about the absence of women in "male-dominated" disciplines ("When the face doesn't fit ... ", 24 January) seemed to imply that there are female-dominated disciplines and that we should not worry about women working there. In my discipline the vast majority of students, including PhD ones, are women - but entry-level jobs are disproportionately given to men.

As a PhD student, I hardly ever saw any male colleagues. When I began applying for lectureships, suddenly I was surrounded by men. The situation is almost ridiculous - how do selection panels manage to shortlist so many men in an area where there are almost no male PhD students? What happens to all those female PhD graduates? Do they give up the first time they're interviewed by a panel of ageing males?

Academics discriminate against women more than comparable professionals do. Of course many people will say the reasons are always the same, that women get pregnant, and so on - basically, if women don't get jobs it's their own fault. The real reason is different. Compared with other professions, there is a large pool of highly qualified applicants for few positions. Interviewing panels are not responsible to anyone for their choices. In the absence of controls, academics choose what they feel more comfortable with - people of their same gender.

At one of my job interviews some time ago I complimented the department on the nice proportion of women in their faculty. They smiled politely and then offered the position to a man.

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