Academia and Gender Inequality

Gender equality in academia needs to be a focus in describing workplace inequality!

When I think of gender inequality in the workplace, I think of big businesses or STEM careers. When I think of teachers, I think of how growing up, most of my teachers were women. People associate teaching jobs, in primary and secondary schools, with women. Despite this, there is serious gender inequality in academia.

In the 2015-2016 school year, it was reported that only around 24% of UK professors are women. Women held almost half of the tenured track positions in 2013 but held only 37.5% of tenure positions. Why are childhood teaching jobs associated with women, but jobs as professors or in research are male dominated fields?

Primary and secondary school-aged children are at an age of development, and part of teachers’ jobs is to nurture them. The nurturing role associated with women, because of gender roles imposed by society, continues with teaching as a woman’s profession.

The struggles that women face in the workplace extend to academia too.

Society expects women to be nurturing, feminine, and polite. Characteristics desired in a successful academic aren’t considered characteristics of a stereotypical woman. The expectation of women in a domestic role also contributes to the inequality. This includes the idea that women should focus on a career or a family, but not both. In tenured faculty, only 44% of the women were married with children, opposed to 70% of men.

It is more likely to find women in lower ranked academic positions, as women hold 56.7% of all instructor positions, among the lowest ranked positions in academia. This inequality is seen more extensively in women of color:

  • Asian women held 4.8% of tenure-track positions and 2.6% of tenured positions
  • Black women held 3.7% of tenure-track positions and 2.2% of tenured positions
  • Hispanic women held 2.5% of tenure-track positions and 2.3% of tenured positions

There are many ways that inequality in the workplace, and academia, can change:

  • Increasing the number of women in senior positions
  • Fighting for equal wages for all genders
  • Removing barriers to equal participation of women
  • Changing mindsets about men and women and their outside/family responsibilities
  • Changing workplace attitudes and practices to embrace gender equality

What initiatives formed to change inequality in academia?


About the Author

Kathryn Pitts is a Political Science major at Georgia State University, pursuing a career in the non-profit sector. She is aiming to work with refugees, specifically women and children, and women’s rights on a global scale. She is passionate about volunteer work and strives to help others every day. Kathryn also enjoys playing with her dog and hiking on weekends off.

Image Source: UNICEF