Angela Crum-Ewing is the retiring deputy registrar at Reading University. She entered university administration at the age of 39 after taking time out to care for a family of four children. When her youngest child was nine the post of general university administrator became available at Reading, the campus of which "was practically next door'' to her home.
It was a "nice, convenient job'' with good pay. She gained rapid promotion, but not to the top jobs she felt she deserved. Ten years ago, "I suddenly lost my temper. There were many, mainly men, who were being promoted above me who were not as good as me. So I went to my boss and I thumped the table and I said: 'I'm good and I want to be promoted.' He was upset and surprised but he promoted me without question. He said he had simply not thought about it.
"Women tend to do jobs and do them well and their praises go unsung. They tend to get stuck with the boring, tedious things. Men are much more likely to go and see their head of department and say 'I want to discuss my career prospects.' Women have to learn to do that.
"I have not had difficulty being taken seriously, but I know how to project my voice and I have been very careful never to pour the coffee out at meetings."
Diane Berry, 37, is director of finance at Bath University. After starting out on a research career in accountancy she left to train as a chartered accountant and came back into university "as a professional''. She said: "I felt there was a lot of scope for doing interesting things."
Financial administration is male dominated, and she initially found difficulties "in being taken seriously'' at Bath. The first woman in a senior managerial position, she was viewed as "very young'' by some colleagues. "I am tall and slim and blonde and have always seen that as an advantage, but I was either flirted with or treated as a sort of daughter. I just worked away at that without being confrontational.
"When I first came to Bath it was in the middle of a budgetary cycle so I had to go out and see all the heads of schools. I think many men in my position would have been quite assertive in those meetings, trying to establish their own authority. But I put up my hand and said: 'I know very little of what's going on here'. Women are more open about what they don't know and what they are capable of doing rather than bluffing their way through."