Scots examine sex inequality

April 21, 2000

Amid national concern over gender and racial discrimination in pay and appointments, Edinburgh University is publishing what it believes is the most thorough and wide-ranging analysis of staff in any major university.

The year-long investigation of employment, appointments and promotions patterns has found that, allowing for subject mix, Edinburgh employs fewer female academics than might be expected, especially at more senior grades.

But once women apply for posts, or are nominated for promotion, they have a better chance than men of being appointed.

Four professors with specialist expertise, working with the university's equal opportunities officer, Marian Larson, and an academic statistician, carried out the study. Edinburgh is one of the country's larger universities, with more than 6,600 staff, and the study aims to benchmark its performance against other higher education institutions, other employers and the local labour market.

Vice-principal Michael Anderson, who led the equal opportunities technical advisory group, said the university wanted to "get beneath the superficial" to discover what issues needed further investigation.

"If you look at the appointments and promotions processes, there is no evidence that women are doing worse than men. What, however, does appear to be the case is that women are less likely to get into the processes," he said.

"This suggests a more subtle set of issues that need to be investigated, and what we've got to try to unpack is whether there are implicit discouragements. The critical issue becomes encouraging women, and perhaps supporting them, to get into the processes."

Female academics are on average paid less than men, but much of the disparity in salaries and grades stems from female staff being younger than male staff. Some 67 per cent of women academics are under 46, compared with 42 per cent of males, and 30 per cent are under 36, compared with 15 per cent of males.

The investigation found higher numbers of female researchers than national statistics would suggest, with proportions of applications in line with national data and female applicants more likely to be short-listed and appointed.

But Edinburgh employs fewer people with disabilities than many other comparable employers, while applicants from ethnic minorities are statistically less likely to be short-listed and appointed.

Ms Larson said Edinburgh was working with the local racial equality council but had not yet reached the stage of recommending particular actions. The equality report would be updated every two years, while the flow of appointments and promotions would continue to be monitored annually, she said.

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