Athena Swan

Athena Swan promotes and supports the careers of women in Science, Engineering and Technology (STEM), and aims to address gender inequalities and imbalance in these disciplines and, in particular, the under-representation of women in senior roles.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

In the news - The academics tackling everyday sexism in university life

In the ongoing debate over how to improve the numbers of women in academia, there is sometimes a feeling that there is an awful lot of navel-gazing and not much action. Or, that that action is someone else's responsibility/takes up too much time/can't be funded/too much like hard work. One group at Oxford University, Women in the Humanities, has been given £60,000 over three years to find ways to support academics in the humanities, particularly those struggling to get on the career ladder due to high teaching loads and the time required to write books. As the group themselves admit, this initiative can only achieve so much, so more power to them for trying - and if you can, support them at their Women's Day Celebration on 6th March (unfortunately now sold out).

Our universities are highly sexist institutions. Women are outnumbered and relegated to junior posts. More than 60% of academics are men, and about 80% of professors. Official statistics show that more women are on temporary contracts than men.
Behind the numbers lie depressing examples of everyday sexism. A new survey by the Royal Historical Society (RHS) shows that female academics, regardless of whether they are PhD candidates or professors, are exploited and marginalised by “macho practices and cultures”. Combative behaviour in academic debates and a long-hours culture are de rigueur. And, as a report by Women in Philosophy points out, the problem is “not that women are somehow less able to cope when aggressive behaviour is aimed at them… It is rather that aggressive behaviour can heighten women’s feeling that they do not belong, by reinforcing the masculine nature of the environment within which they work and study.”

Read more here.

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