BAME women academics in STEM face ‘compounded disadvantage’

BAME women academics in STEM face ‘compounded disadvantage’

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Female academics at universities experience consistent disadvantages across multiple aspects of their working lives according to research released today by the Equality Challenge Unit.

Findings from the report also suggest that the challenges the women face is exacerbated when gender intersects with factors such as race, sexuality and disability.

The Athena Survey of Science, Engineering and Technology questioned 2,050 men and 2,821 women who work in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine at 43 UK universities, about their perceptions of gender equality.

Key findings from the survey indicate that male STEMM academics were significantly more likely to enjoy a “formally assigned mentor”, “opportunities to sit on important departmental committees” and “access to senior staff”.

Female STEMM academics on the other hand said they encountered more teaching and administrative duties and with less recognition for these efforts, they had less time to devote to research, they faced additional caring responsibilities and had fewer training opportunities and more barriers to training.

BME women academics were said to experience a compounded disadvantage with regards to these issues. This segment of respondents were “least likely to have been formally invited or encouraged to apply for promotion or undertake activities that would develop their careers”. 

Three quarters of the women in the sample (75.7 per cent) thought that it was easier for a man to get a senior post in their department while almost half of the men (47.3 per cent) did not think there was an advantage for either gender.

Results show that a larger proportion of male respondents were formally promoted to their current post (13.5 per cent), compared with female respondents (9.1 per cent), while 59.7 per cent of men were explicitly encouraged to apply for promotion compared to 48.8 per cent women.

Concerning other protected characteristics, the report concludes that gender gaps tend to “widen with age”, disabled academic staff “experience a serious lack of opportunities for career progression in [these disciplines], over and above existing gender gaps”, and sexual orientation may also impede career progression. 

Commenting on the findings, Sarah Dickinson Hyams, ECU’s Head of Equality Charters, said: “These findings underline that more work needs to be done if we are to achieve gender equality in higher education. ECU urges the sector to engage with this research and take action to address the issues raised.”



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