Women inch into a male domain

February 1, 2002

Women and ethnic minorities are slowly muscling their way into the still largely white male field of academic economics, according to a report from the Royal Economic Society's committee on women in economics.

But women are still overrepresented at the lowest levels of academia, and much of the expansion in their numbers is in temporary jobs. Women make up about one-third of graduate students and one-fifth of academic economists, holding 44 per cent of temporary lecturer posts, a fifth of full-time permanent lecturer posts, 12 per cent of reader and senior lecturer posts and 7 per cent of professorships.

This is an improvement on 1998, the report says, but women economists remain below the proportion of women employed in the university sector as a whole. About one-third of full-time university academic staff and about 12 per cent of professors are female.

The increase in the number of temporary or fixed-term lecturer posts was particularly steep, from 28 per cent in 1998 to 44 per cent.

And although women make up a higher proportion of new appointments, the proportion of women promoted to a grade was still lower than the share of women in the feeder grade.

Heather Joshi, one of the authors of the report and a professor at the Institute of Education, said: "This suggests bias. In our next study, we will look at the career paths of individual women to investigate what stops them from climbing the ladder."

Nine per cent of new professors are women, compared with 7 per cent in 1998. The percentage of new female readers has increased from 12 per cent to 16 per cent.

Nearly three-quarters of academic economists are white but non-white academics are proportionately more likely to be professors, readers, permanent lecturers and fixed-term lecturers than they were in 1998, says the report.

The report is the third biennial study of gender and ethnic balance from the society. The study was carried out in 2000-01.

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