Women and poker

July 17, 1998

Your feature on women's academic career prospects (THES, July 3) was most illuminating. It is a welcome addition to the growing literature on this topic. Much of this featured at a conference in Sydney, Australia, this week (July 13-17), titled "Winds of Change: Women and the Culture of Universities". Its nickname is "chilly climate", and the papers seem likely to confirm the impression given in your account for Britain.

As a former professor at South Bank University, I should like to correct an impression created in the feature. It is not the case that "a few years ago it was generally seen as one of the grimier heavy engineering polytechnics". For more than four decades, social sciences have had a strong reputation.

I was the first woman professor at South Bank, awarded the title in the inaugural professorial round almost ten years ago although the other seven were men. In the nine years to 1997, other women - mainly in economics, social sciences and the humanities - have also been awarded the title in regular promotion rounds.

The "buying-in" of professors has been akin to the football metaphor of league tables and more male than female. Indeed, the three female professors (all internal promotions) who have left South Bank in the past year have been replaced by two men and only one woman.

Miriam David The London Institute

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