Women rise in politics' ranks

February 20, 1998

GENDER gaps are closing among academic political scientists, a new study has shown.

The latest Survey of the Profession by the Political Studies Association shows that, while just over 80 per cent of the 1,192 academics in politics departments in British universities are men, women are now being promoted more rapidly and are getting more time for research.

Ian Forbes, chair of the PSA, who is on sabbatical from Nottingham University working on a book on equal opportunities, said the findings were "very encouraging".

"It shows that women are being rewarded for their expertise and ability by reaching a high level in the profession," he said.

He was less convinced that this was entirely the direct outcome of equal opportunities policies, suggesting that the growth in interest in women and gender studies may also have had an impact.

The survey shows that an academic who progresses all the way from first appointment to lecturership to a chair via promotions to senior lecturer and reader is likely to take 24 years if male and just under 22.5 years if female. Women reach every intermediate stage more rapidly than men, but are slower to move from readerships to chairs, taking six years and two months against a male average of five years.

Thirty-seven per cent of women had time specifically allocated for research, against just under 30 per cent of men. Women receiving research time averaged 1.4 days a week against 1.35 days for men.

"All the evidence from the research assessment exercise is that specifically allocated research time is the key to high-quality research output," said Professor Forbes.

The one area where women are doing less well is in full-time work - just over one in ten women are part-timers compared with about one in 19 men - and they are on shorter contracts. Men on short-term deals have contracts averaging 25.7 months, against 20.8 months for women.

Professor Forbes said there was still concern about women's opportunities at entry level and that the PSA expected to do more detailed work on these issues in the coming year.

The report also shows the sharp growth in interest in the European Union and its institutions - 11 per cent of those responding declared an interest in this area, as many as work on individual EU countries and more than twice as numerous as specialists on North America.

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