Gender equality stalls north of border

July 14, 2006

The proportion of female staff in Scottish higher education may have been increasing in recent years, but it has stalled at professorial level, a new report suggests.

Less than 5 per cent of female staff are professors compared with 16 per cent of males, according to the report Gender in Scottish Higher Education: What's the issue? , published this week by the Scottish Funding Council (SFC).

Almost a decade ago, 67 per cent of academic staff north of the border were men, but this had fallen to 60 per cent by 2003-04.

But Scottish women's progress at professorial level, far from improving, has slightly worsened.

In 1997-98, 15 per cent of professors in Scottish higher education institutions were women, but this figure had fallen to 14 per cent in 2003-04.

Roger McClure, the SFC's chief executive, said the reason for the imbalance was unclear, since it had gone on for too long to be explained away by the historic underrepresentation of women in the sector.

"We're not pretending that we've come up with explanations (about why this is the case), but the first important step is to get out as much relevant evidence as we can.

"I am sure that every institution would deny that they are in any way biased in their selection procedures," he said.

The SFC along with other funding bodies, will have a statutory duty to promote gender equality from next April.

Women make up the majority of part-time academic staff in Scottish higher education, at almost 60 per cent. But only 30 per cent of staff with PhDs are women.

The SFC said that this may be because women are more likely to work in less research-intensive areas such as education and nursing, which may not require doctorates.

The SFC report shows that male academics outnumber women in every subject area in Scottish higher education institutions, apart from subjects allied to medicine, which includes nursing, and education.

In Scotland, men now make up 70 per cent of the staff in history and philosophy departments, 80 per cent in physical sciences and 90 per cent in engineering departments.

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