The laggards

May 28, 1999

Colin Bell, vice-chancellor at the University of Bradford, says he well recognises that something must be done.

Only 3.1 per cent of its professors are women and the university stands second to bottom of the league table.

It is a bit of an irony that Bradford - which has boasted such pioneering feminist professors as Hilary Rose, Ruth Lister and Sheila Allen, recently retired head of applied social sciences - should be carving a niche for itself for its failure to promote women.

It is, according to Donna Pankhurst (no relation) who lectures in peace studies, "quite appalling".

A third of the academic staff in peace studies are women, though not one is a professor. Pankhurst says her department'sfigures are encouraging.

"In peace studies we definitely don't suffer from the extreme forms of sexism that women in other university departments do, including some at Bradford."

Bell, who has been in post since August, thinks the gender division in universities is clearly unacceptable.

Since he arrived the slogan that appears at the end of all job advertisements has been beefed up to say "Celebrating diversity, challenging inequality".

Bell says: "I don't belabour other people. I live what I preach and I don't think it is easy. If someone has a series of very good ideas, or better still, brilliant applicants..."

He says that the chair of civil engineering is being openly advertisedat present. "I betwe don't get aqualified female applicant. What doI do about it?" Bell doesn't accept the traditional excuses that a portfolio biased towards technology-based disciplines can explain away a university's lack of females in top jobs. He acknowledges that it will be increasingly likely that women will not get into senior management unless they have had some financial management expertise. Womenin the universityfear this will further reduce their opportunities.

Bell says: "Wecan expect to see some changesin the progress women make over the next five years. The university will be judged by itand of course Iwill take lead responsibility for that."

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