Gender in university leadership and governance
As is well known, in many university courses women now make up the majority of the student body. But when you get to academic lecturing staff, in the UK only 39 per cent are women. The proportion of senior academic posts filled by women is smaller still. There is still clearly a job to be done in higher education to ensure that there are no barriers that keep women from pursuing successful careers to the highest level in universities.
In this particular debate, one other part of the system is now coming under increasing scrutiny: university governance. There was some evidence that until recently university governing bodies were finding it difficult to achieve any kind of gender balance. When the panel that I chaired reviewed higher education governance in Scotland in 2012, we recommended that 40 per cent of all members of governing bodies should be women, and that institutions should work towards that aim.
The Herald newspaper has now looked more closely at gender distribution on university governing bodies, and found that there has been some improvement in Scotland, at least to the extent that a number of higher education institutions now have female chairs.
More generally, it is true to say that gender imbalance is not as severe as it used to be; but it is still far from perfect. Universities need to continue to address this issue, not least so as to ensure that women (and indeed men) do not end up in single-sex ghettoes in the labour market. A significant part of getting this right is to ensure that there are role models for both sexes: male teachers, female engineers, male therapists, female computer programmers. And of course, women as university heads and chairs.
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