Revealed: Just over a quarter of university professors are women

This reflects ‘a deeply engrained sexism’ operating within academia, says one female professor

Just over a quarter of university professors are women, according to new data released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA).

Out of 22,855 professors working in the UK, 28 per cent are female, demonstrating absolutely no change compared with the previous year.

Katrina Scior is a psychology professor at UCL who believes there is “a deeply engrained sexism” operating within academia.


Professor Katrina Scior (right)

“There’s a well-established leaky pipeline across many disciplines where women dominate on the lower levels. But once you get to the upper levels – including senior academics, senior lecturers and professors – the scales tip and men outnumber women,” Katrina told The Tab. “The established system is designed by men for men and is biased against women.

“For example, when women try to combine childcare and their career, lots of activities including conferences just aren’t doable anymore and those are the things that get you promoted.”

The HESA research also found that just one per cent of professors are Black, while seven per cent are Asian and 89 per cent are White.

University and College Union (UCU) General Secretary Jo Grady said: “‘The small number of Black staff in senior positions is indicative of a university sector that fails to value the talent and dedication of all of its workforce.

“But sadly, what we see at the top of institutions is just the tip of the iceberg with equality failings rife across the entire sector.

“Women, Black staff and disabled staff continue to face shocking pay gaps with women more likely to be on zero hours contracts than men, and Black women even more likely still.”

Last week, UCU announced a new wave of university strikes scheduled for February, affecting students at 68 universities. Much of the dispute centres around the precarious contracts under which many academic staff are working.

The latest figures show that 72,610 academic staff members at UK universities are on fixed-term contracts. These contracts expire after a certain date and are often short in length. This leaves some staff in the position of not knowing whether their contract will be renewed and if they will still have a job or not. With roughly a third of academic staff in this position, Jo Grady says this “should shame every vice chancellor in the UK”.

“University staff are at breaking point and are set to strike later this month over the continued overuse of insecure contracts; race, gender and disability pay gaps; and dangerously high workloads. University vice-chancellors are presiding over a sector which is exploitative and they urgently need to address staff concerns if they want to avert UK wide campus walkouts,” Grady said.

Featured image: Shutterstock / Matej Kastelic (edited)

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