Increasing the Leadership and Influence of Women Academics

In honour of International Women’s Day, The Guardian ran a great piece about women academics. It linked to The British Council’s (BC) research, which finds that only 30% of the world’s researchers are women, and that there are proportionally less women researchers working within the university system than in the private and public sectors. The BC reports that only 27% of Australian academics are women. While 44% of academics in Britain are women, only 20% of professors are women, suggesting that women find it difficult to progress into higher leadership positions at the professorship level.

Louise Morley’s research for the Centre for Higher Education and Equality Research identifies that this trend is similarly dismal around the world. In Indonesia, women find it more difficult to pursue a PhD and consequently an academic career due to having to travel long distances, which is culturally less problematic for men. Morley also finds that in nations such as the Philippines and Sri Lanka the ratio of women academics to men is relatively higher, but only because education is not a prestigious career.

Sweden and Austria have higher rates of women academics because they use a range of research, development and incentive programmes as well as quota systems. In Norway, 43% of vice chancellors are women because the state decides these appointments rather than universities.

Morley identifies that mentoring is one important ingredient in retaining a higher rate of senior women academics. Clearly a cultural shift is needed within global university networks. Rohayu Abdul-Ghani, deputy director at Universiti Kebangsaan, Malaysia, says:

“Higher education must make appointment of women academic administrators and development of young female academic talents part of their strategic goals. I have seen this to be effective at [my university] with the setting up of gender diversity as a key performance indicator. In addition, the institutes are held accountable for gender diversity and for the remedial measures to be taken where necessary. Until this is done, women academics will continue to be excluded and marginalised from becoming senior, influential players in HE.”

Learn more

British Council research.
Guardian article.
Photo: Simone de Beauvoir.

First published on Science on Google+