Leading Cambridge dons call for a new approach to beat the gender gap in top university jobs


Richard Garner
Thursday 20 February 2014 02:44

Leading Cambridge academics are today calling for a shake-up in appointments procedures in order to give talented women as better chance of securing top jobs.

Fifty senior academics at the university, including heads of colleges and departments, are appealing for a broader and more inclusive approach to selecting personnel for senior positions.

Their plea is made against a background where statistics show there are four male professors for every female professor in UK universities. This is despite women representing 45 per cent of the workforce.

They argue that conventional methods of achieving success in academia, based on papers published in leading academic journals or the size and frequency of research grants, appear to benefit men more than women.

They want other qualities to be taken into consideration - such as teaching quality and outreach work.

Professor Dame Athene Donald, a gender equality champion at Cambridge University, said: “Women seem to value a broader spectrum of work-based competencies that do not flourish easily under the current system.

“There will always be hardcore metrics for academics - such as grants, or prizes won and books and papers published, and these are important. But there are opportunities to reward and embed different types of success, such as teaching, outreach and departmental support, activities lots of talented women, and indeed men, are involved with but are not currently a meaningful part of recognition and advancement in universities.

“If universities inhibit the progression of talented female staff, they in turn are unable to reach their full potential.”

The letter coincides with the publication of a new book, The Meaning of Success: Insights from Women at Cambridge, which features 26 women’s observations on their achievements, sacrifices, highs and lows.

The university itself is conducting research aimed at improving its own gender imbalances.

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