Female staff call for state support

August 18, 2000

A report by a group of French female university professors has urged the government to increase the number of women in senior academic posts.

The authors advocate limiting the number of posts an academic may hold, creating new human resource management structures, waiving some academic duties for women on recruitment committees, and giving equal weight for performance evaluation to research, teaching and administration.

Woman are half as likely as men to become university professors in France. They represent just 34 per cent of associate professors and 14 per cent of full professors across all disciplines.

Although a long way from equality, women still fare better in France than in most other European countries. In Britain and Germany, they occupy just 5 per cent of university chairs. The proportion of women varies significantly by discipline, however. Women are employed in almost equal numbers as associate professors in the humanities, but account for just per cent of full professors. In the sciences, the picture is bleaker.

In the rare disciplines where they have established a presence, such as pharmacology and biology, women have not benefited from the extra posts created since 1981, the report says. They have to struggle for promotion and "will have to wait 200 years for parity".

Women's competence is recognised neither by their male colleagues nor by the staff in charge of recruitment. They are undermined "by the maternity question" and suffer from the notion in the collective consciousness that mothers should educate their children. The report says women tend to concentrate on less prestigious teaching rather than research. When they are promoted, they often find themselves assigned administrative tasks.

The report, which was presented to the education ministry, says committees responsible for career development are still dominated by men, even though the number of women has increased.

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