Why two parents are not a panacea

September 5, 1997

While your article (THES, August 22) gave examples of successful job-sharing of academic positions, these cannot provide the whole answer to the problems of combining careers and families.

There are two principal reasons why more women do not reach the upper academic ranks of universities. The first is the unwillingness of universities to appoint people to part-time positions and the second the problems associated with moving when a spouse moves. Both these problems are compounded by a lack of imagination on the part of those making appointments and those seeking appointments. There is no reason for academic positions to be packaged in quanta of full-time posts. There are other possible career structures than the norm.

I suggest that all university posts be advertised as full- or part-time, that lecturers whether full- or part-time be given the same status with the same possibilities of tenure, promotion and conversion to and from full-time. I suggest that appointments committees look more carefully at applicants who do not have the expected background or age. Finally, I suggest that people with family commitments consider the possibility of applying for parts of jobs without necessarily having a suitable job-share partner or asking to change from full- to part-time for a limited number of years.

Ruth Lynden-Bell

Professor, maths and physics Queen's University of Belfast Part-time lecturer in chemistry University of Sussex 1965-72

The ties still bind, page 15

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