A conference on removing barriers to women in higher education has questioned the view that women's prospects are gradually improving.
Fiona Wilson, professor of organisational behaviour at Glasgow University, said there were now more women on the lower rungs, but the proportion of women in top jobs had fallen. In 1951, 11.4 per cent of women were in senior posts, but this had dropped to 10.7 per cent by 1990. Professor Wilson was speaking at an Edinburgh conference on "Making it happen" to promote the Women in Higher Education Register, which aims to have women in 15 per cent of top jobs by 2002. She said mentoring and networking had been heralded by many as the way forward, but research had showed that this benefited men more than women. Men are invited to apply for posts or to edit journals; women have to seek out these opportunities.
Institutions must build equality into their mission statement, backed by funding for training, Professor Wilson said.
Joan Stringer, principal of Queen Margaret University College and Scottish commissioner for the Equal Opportunities Commission, said: "We obviously need to do more to redress the imbalances. We are preventing students benefiting from the full range of talent available."