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Why is there a lack of female academics?

Salford researchers to ask why women are under-represented in HE

Posted by Rebecca Paddick | July 15, 2016 | Research

Researchers from the University of Salford are looking for volunteers to take part in new research that looks deeper into the reasoning behind why women are under-represented in higher education.

While a majority of professional and support staff in the UK’s HE sector are women (62.6%), the largest proportion of academic staff are in fact male (44.5% female). Additionally, a majority of professors are also male with female professors accounting for only 21.7%.

Previous research has identified a variety of factors behind why women are under-represented in high academic positions; however it seems the decision to have children, specifically in HE, is considered as a predominant challenge for the academic careers of women.

To investigate this further, researchers from Salford are aiming to explore the experiences that female academics encounter when returning to work post-maternity. This will help to establish the perceptions of two areas; organisational support, and the impact of motherhood on a woman’s career. 

The findings will highlight detailed accounts of both positive and negative areas of organisational support, which the HE sector can use to help shape and improve support for academic mothers to reach their full potential

Exploration into the ‘motherhood penalty’ will form part of the research, as this is a term coined by sociologists who argue that working mothers encounter systematic disadvantages in pay, perceived competence, and benefits, relative to childless women within the workplace.

Investigations will also take place into the concept of the ‘ideal-worker’, which asserts a worker’s clear, relentless commitment to paid work, working long hours and not allowing distractions outside the paid work environment to interfere with his/her job. This includes family, children and other personal facets of life.

Any mothering academics, who have previously returned to work following their maternity leave, can provide an invaluable insight into this research as they are sharing their experiences and perceptions on motherhood in an academic profession. This research has the potential to have a positive impact not only on female academics, but the HE sector as a whole.

Anna Joel, PhD researcher in People Management at the University of Salford, said: “This research is important because it will provide enriching narratives into the experiences of women academics when they return to work after having children. The findings will highlight detailed accounts of both positive and negative areas of organisational support, which the HE sector can use to help shape and improve support for academic mothers to reach their full potential."

If you are a mother who has previously returned to an academic position post-maternity leave, and you are willing to participate in this study please contact: Anna Joel (Email: a.a.joel1@edu.salford.ac.uk, Mobile: 07565279738).

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