The disparity in the numbers of male and female professors in UK universities should be an embarrassment to any institution which values fairness. We have talked about equality of opportunity for so long with respect to our intake of students yet barriers to the equal participation of women at more senior levels of management seem to be unaddressed or stubbornly resistant to the few strategies employed.
I’ve never heard the suggestion of quotas for women or all-female short lists for professorships and I can guarantee that it would be met with uproar, but, I wonder if it would have some merit?
The greatest disadvantage to my mind is that the excellent women who were appointed would almost certainly doubt their ability or deservedness for the post in such circumstances but, perhaps the evidence might change their minds…
An article looking at lists for parliamentary candidates suggests that quality of both male and female candidates appointed was maintained or even increased when there were quotas for the numbers of women…
Before we dismiss it out of hand, perhaps we should see what lessons we can learn. And maybe we could be more creative and more diligent in applying other strategies to reduce barriers to the equal participation of women at all levels.
The evidence that both male and female researchers systematically undervalue the contributions of female compared to male colleagues, that women are interrupted more frequently than men, that men feel more confident and competent to reach for more challenging opportunities suggest that there’s work to be done both in universities and in society beyond.
I can’t imagine that any new parent in the UK believes that their male child automatically deserves greater opportunities than their female child… and yet, that is the reality they currently experience. I wonder when that will really change?