Women’s under-representation in education settings, and especially in their more powerful or influential posts is well established. In 27 countries of the European Union women occupy just only 20 per cent of A grade (full professor) (She Figures, 2012). In UK universities, men outnumber women by a margin of four to one in senior academic positions while women are over-represented in lower teaching grades and temporary research positions (Morley, 1999; Bagilhole, 2002). The under-representation of women within the academy extends to editorial board memberships (Metz & Harzing, 2009) and research funding bodies (European Commission, 2008). Finally, of the 24 research-intensive universities comprising the Russell group, only one namely, The University of Manchester is led by a woman.
These gender differences are even more pronounced in science and technology as the Times Higher Education’s Global Gender Index shows (Times Higher Education) but these differences are also evident in business and management schools. In my recent article I have analysed the data from the top 10 business schools around the world using the Financial Times rankings to show that women rarely exceed more than a quarter of all academic staff and that their representation in leadership positions is even lower (Fotaki, 2013). However, statistics do not show the informal processes of exclusion, devaluation, and marginalization that constitute major impediments to women faculty members’ achievements. These strike at the very heart of the academic enterprise, posing questions about the gendering of meritocracy. The absence of women from senior roles in management education settings may also have a potentially detrimental impact on promoting different role models for future operatives and leaders.
The dramatic increase of numbers of students and university lecturers in higher education, and management schools in the UK in particular, has hardly altered the nature of gendered work relations in the university. The majority of women academics occupy lower-paid teaching posts and temporary research positions and their unequal pay and career prospects are well documented. Gender inequalities and various forms of discrimination are also experienced by students at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. For example, women remain a minority on MBA courses, and there are very few programmes aiming to develop female business leaders (Ibeh et al., 2008).
Gender discrimination is culturally embedded and ideologically-informed stereotypes prove particularly difficult to shift. Researchers indicate how ‘feminine’ roles from outside professional life seem to continue to disadvantage women’s careers, and how their careers limit their personal life choices. However, complex considerations affecting women’s position in academia extend beyond marital status and the presence or absence of children or the existence of institutional policies aiming to promote gender diversity. Since gender stereotypes are ideological and prescriptive, their influence on academic employment processes is unlikely to diminish simply with the passage of time or with accumulating evidence of women’s capabilities. Women’s relative absence from senior academic positions is not simply a result of poor policy or erratic implementation, but a deep-seated issue requiring cultural and generational change.
Tomorrow’s one day research conference – ‘The Unequal Academy’ – will explore these issues, bringing together scholars from across a range of disiplinies and institutions to interrogate the nature and effect of these gender inequalities within academies. The aims of the one-day conference are:
(i) To examine in-depth the causes of such discrimination from a comparative perspective by drawing on a variety of theoretical approaches and empirical evidence;
(ii) To understand the reasons for discrepancy between university policies which are aimed to preclude discrimination and the lived experiences of women
(iii) To propose evidence-based ways of counteracting this phenomenon.
Speakers include: Prof Mary Evans London School of Economics and Political Science, Prof Rosalind Gill Kings College London, Prof Valerie Hey Sussex University, Prof Rosemary Deem Royal Holloway University of London, Prof Helen Gunter University of Manchester and Prof Marianna Fotaki Manchester Business School.
The event, sponsored by Jean Monet Interdisciplinary Research Centre, is organised on 5th of June in Manchester Business School Manchester Business School (MBS West room 3.97 9.30-17.30). Attendance is free but registration is required –please contact Sophie.Thomas@mbs.ac.uk to book your place!
The event is organised by Marianna Fotaki, Professor in Health Policy, Organisation Theory and Ethics in People Management and Organisations Division, Manchester Business School, The University of Manchester. Marianna.Fotaki@mbs.ac.uk
Bagilhole, B. (2002). Challenging equal opportunities: Changing and adapting male hegemony in academia. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 23, 1, 19-33.
European Commission (2012). She Figures. Women and Science. Statistics and Indicators. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.
European Commission (2008). Mapping the Maze: Getting More Women to the Top in Research. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.
Fotaki, M. (2013). No woman is like a man (in academia): The masculine symbolic order and the unwanted female body. Organization Studies (forthcoming)
Ibeh, K., Carter, S., Poff, D. & Hamill, J. ‘How focused are the world’s top rated business schools on educating women for global management?, Journal of Business Ethics, 2008, 83:65–83.
Morley, L. (1999). Organising Feminisms: the Micro-politics of the Academy, Basingstoke, McMillan.
Times Higher Education, (2013) The Global Gender Index published on 2nd May 2013.