Academic life unfair, say women of a certain age

Women in their forties and early fifties are the least satisfied among principal investigators with the way they are treated by their universities, a survey has found.

September 29, 2011

The Principal Investigators and Research Leaders Survey, conducted by the research career development organisation Vitae, reveals large differences in the perceptions of male and female academics about whether their university treats staff fairly.

Of the 2,600 respondents, a third of whom are women, 77 per cent agree that staff are treated fairly regardless of gender. But only 22 per cent of women strongly agree, compared with 42 per cent of men.

The figure falls to 19 per cent for women aged between 41 and 55.

That demographic is also the most likely to report discrimination, with 30 per cent reporting having been discriminated against in their current post, compared with 9 per cent of men and 26 per cent of women of all ages.

Meanwhile, only 42 per cent of female principal investigators aged between 41 and 55 are satisfied with their work-life balance, compared with 46 per cent of women in general and 56 per cent of men. Academics over 40 are also slightly less likely than their younger colleagues to agree that staff are treated fairly regardless of their age - although 80 per cent still say that they are.

The survey reveals that principal investigators see securing funding as the most important factor in academic success, with 87 per cent deeming it to be very important to "help research staff become effective future research leaders".

Securing funding is also the aspect of their jobs for which the highest proportion of respondents - 64 per cent - feel recognised and valued by their institutions. However, just 40 per cent feel confident about securing funding, and only 54 per cent are satisfied with the support that they receive from their institutions for doing so.

Other areas where confidence is low include knowledge exchange, public engagement and budget management. However, respondents also rate these as among the least important elements of becoming a successful research leader.

Respondents feel most confident about presenting at conferences, supervising doctoral students and developing research areas.

paul.jump@tsleducation.com

http://tinyurl.com/65srry9

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