Glass Ceiling in the Ivory Tower?

Regarding Stoat’s earlier post On Women in Philosophy and Jender’s earlier post on Critical Mass, I thought this article drawing attention to some recent HESA statistics was interesting. It seems that the numbers of female academics in British Universities has risen slightly. However, the interesting bit:

1) 42% of F/T Lecturer level posts (Assistant Professorships) are held by females.

2) 30.8% of F/T Senior Lecturer level posts (Associate Professorships) are held by females.

3) 16.5% of F/T Professorial posts are held by females.

Assuming, from the Critical Mass article, that what holds for business environments holds for academic ones too, then, although female Senior Lectureships meet (just) the critical mass requirement, I’d expect the need to meet the 30% level is really at the Professorial level. In which case, the 16.5% stat is a bit concerning.

2 thoughts on “Glass Ceiling in the Ivory Tower?

  1. I see there are worries expressed in the earlier message about critical mass. I think the idea is that it might not be that 30% really allows women to flourish; rather, it might be that environments in which 30% of the senior positions go to women is already women supportive.

    I think that theories, along with data from other areas, can help us sort out what’s cause and what’s effect. One theory is found in Virginia Valian’s book, Why So Slow? It’s really worth reading. Her idea, to put it very roughly, is that we have schemas or sets of expectations generated by our experiences. If there aren’t many women in a field, that reinforces the expectation that women can’t really do it. As it were, members of a small minority are always questionable. It is literally surprising when they pull something good off.
    Another and dreary figure is that women candidates as well qualified as male candidates do not have an equal chance in a job competition unless at least 30% (or perhaps 1/3)of the candidates are women. I’m not sure, but part of this might be that where there are so few women, picking a woman is seen as risky. After all, the assumption might be, if women could do it as well as men, they’re be more.

  2. These numbers shouldn’t be that suprising should they? It usually takes quite some time to reach full professor. Given that, and remembering that in the not so distant past it was uncommon for women to pursue graduate degrees, we should expect numbers like this. There probably are other influences (sexism, women leaving the workforce to stay at home more often than men, etc), but these should be smaller effects I would think.

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