RAE is a great boon to equal opps

March 10, 2000

Women's career patterns often do not conform to the expected pattern, and breaks for family responsibilities can mean a shorter list of publications. As a personnel director in a university, I have first-hand experience of colleagues looking for ways to get round equal opportunities procedures to appoint a new member of staff without advertisement or interview because they think (s)he will enhance the RAE submission.

But perhaps the most telling evidence comes in a European Commission report, Promoting Excellence through Mainstreaming Gender Equality. It shows from studies in Sweden and the United Stated that peer-review systems discriminate against women.

The report concludes: "Gender is a key organising principle in scientific institutions to the detriment of science.

"A conscious effort needs to be made by employing authorities to address the underlying structures and systems, which disadvantage women. These include acknowledging how 'merit and productivity' are social constructs predicated upon male patterns of working, and making institutions less reliant on male networks to secure succession plans. The balance of work and life needs to be tackled by universities and research institutes."

A recent online debate by the Women in Higher Education Register with the Hansard Society for the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology on women in science and engineering came to similar conclusions.

Liz Lanchbery Consultant, Women in Higher Education Register

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