Female academics face ‘discriminatory teaching loads’, a report suggests

The report concluded ‘a man working in the same field as a woman, with similar or even identical credentials and family circumstances, is more likely to have a higher academic rank’

Female academics face “discriminatory teaching loads”, a new report suggests.

Gender and Academic Rank in the UK researched the effect of unconscious gender bias in academia.

The evidence is based on responses from 2,270 academics at 24 Russell Group universities.

Researchers at Cardiff University concluded “being a woman has a negative and significant association with academic rank” even when age, qualifications and the amount of research they had published was taken into account.

Academia is not perceived as a family-friendly working environment and is probably not – Dr Georgina Santos

The report says female academics at every level except professors face disproportionately heavier teaching loads and that this can be “considered as both a cause and a result of the gender gap”. Teaching is often considered less prestigious and may negatively affect their opportunities for promotion.

It is the first report to find a correlation between male and female academics and when they chose to have children. It found over half of female academics aged 45 and over did not have children, compared to 20% of all women over 45 in England and Wales.

The report said, “if children are timed with career considerations in mind”, they did not have a negative effect on a woman’s career prospects, but this often-meant delaying children until after reaching a senior position.

Lead researcher Dr Georgina Santos said: “Once they reach their thirties, women have two competing goals in their lives: establishing themselves in their careers, having finished their PhDs, and having children. Delaying pregnancy can mean that these women are left childless as fertility declines with age. Academia is not perceived as a family-friendly working environment and is probably not.”

“The only group for which the research found no gender gap is the group of male and female academics who had children once they had secured a certain position,” the report concluded.

The authors noted discrimination is rarely blatant but is apparent in “unconscious” and “concealed” ways. Santos said although many universities have policies in place to reduce the gender gap, “more needs to be done to ensure women are not left having to make the difficult choice between starting a family or advancing their careers.”


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