Gender equity in the professoriate: A cohort study of new women professors in Australia

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Research and Development in Higher Education Vol. 33 : Reshaping Higher Education

July, 2010, 654 pages
Published by
M. Devlin, J. Nagy and A. Lichtenberg
0 908557 80 9

According to statistics and trend data, women continue to be substantially under- represented in the Australian professoriate, and growth in their representation has been slow despite the plethora of equity programs. While not disputing these facts, we propose that examining gender equity by cohort provides a complementary perspective on the status of gender equity in the professoriate. Based on over 500 survey responses, we detected substantial similarities between women and men who were appointed as professors or associate professors between 2005 and 2008. There were similar proportions of women and men appointed via external or internal processes or by invitation. Additionally, similar proportions of women and men professors expressed a marked preference for research over teaching. Furthermore, there were similar distributions between the genders in the age of appointment to the professoriate. However, a notable gender difference was that women were appointed to the professoriate on average 1.9 years later than men. This later appointment provides one reason for the lower representation of women compared to men in the professoriate. It also raises questions of the typical length of time that women and men remain in the (paid) professoriate and reasons why they might leave it. A further similarity between women and men in this cohort was their identification of motivation and circumstances as key factors in their career orientation. However, substantially more women identified motivation than circumstances and the situation was reversed for men. The open-ended survey responses also provided confirmation that affirmative action initiatives make a difference to women’s careers.

Keywords: gender equity, women in the professoriate, Australian women professors