Sexism charge hits Glasgow

April 12, 2001

Almost 50 Glasgow University academics have accused their institution of sexism in its choice of honorary graduands for its 550th anniversary celebrations.

The complaint comes in an open letter signed by 46 Glasgow staff - 12 of whom are professors and nine of whom are men. Glasgow is awarding 80 honorary degrees this year in an extended list marking the anniversary, but the letter notes that only eight honours are going to women.

"Such an imbalance does not reflect well on an institution that supposedly promotes equal opportunities and that proudly boasts that 57 per cent of its student population is female," the letter says.

"What a pity the university didn't manage to produce a listI that properly reflects the gender balance of society and acknowledges the contribution of distinguished women in Scotland and elsewhere to contemporary life in the arts, science and culture."

A university spokeswoman said: "Many of the honorary degrees being conferredI mark our links with other organisations and institutions, in the city, nationally and overseas. In many of these cases, the senior figure receiving the degree on behalf of the organisation is male."

It was open to all of those who signed the letter to nominate candidates for honorary degrees, but only a few did so, said the spokeswoman. It is believed that just two signatories made nominations.

Mary Gilhooley, professor of health studies at Paisley University, signed the letter as a Glasgow graduate.

She said she had no recollection of being invited to make a nomination. The low proportion of female honorary graduates would have been less surprising had they all been academics, given the glass ceiling, she said.

"But they are chosen from the wider world where you don't see such marked difference in the gender balance. You would have thought somebody at the top levels would have noticed that there were so few women."

The female honorary graduands are percussionist Evelyn Glennie; artist Elizabeth Blackadder; Seona Reid, director of Glasgow School of Art; journalists Frances Cairncross and Kirsty Wark; veterinary scientist Judy Macarthur Clark; Helen Bamber of the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture; and Christiane Nuslein-Vollhard of the Max-Planck-Institut fur Entwicklungsbiologie in Germany.

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