California accused of gender bias

May 27, 2005

A week after Harvard University announced a programme to increase the number of women on its staff, an institution on the other side of the US has come under attack for hiring too few women.

About two thirds of the faculty taken on in the past two years by the University of California system have been men, according to a report by four women who teach at the California campus in Davis. This is despite the fact that slightly more than half of all US PhDs are held by women.

The university has not disputed the figures and has hired a high-level administrator to come up with ways to bring more women to the faculty. But university officials say that comparing the proportion of women hired with the proportion who hold PhDs is misleading because women with doctorates are concentrated in fewer disciplines than men with the same qualification.

The California Board of Regents rejected positive discrimination based on race and gender in 1995 and the number of women entering to the faculty dropped from 37 per cent to 25 per cent. It has since risen to 36 per cent.

Meanwhile, an unrelated report suggests that men and women are in for a tough time if they want a full-time post in higher education in the US.

Most new jobs are going to part-timers, the US Education Department says.

Universities increased numbers of part-time faculty by 10 per cent and full-time faculty by 2 per cent in 2003, according to a report.

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