Female academics marginalised

Philosophy was one of the worst departments in the University, with females making up only 13 per cent of the total academic staff, Image: University Of York website

Philosophy was one of the worst departments in the University, with females making up only 13 per cent of the total academic staff, Image: University Of York website

An investigation by Nouse has uncovered statistics showing a pay gap of over £2,718 between male and female Professors at the University, as well as a dominance of males in senior academic positions.

Men make up 77 per cent of Professors currently working at the University, as opposed to females who make up just 23 per cent.

74 per cent of Heads of Department are also male, compared to 26 per cent female, and 78 per cent of clinical staff are male, with only 22 per cent being female.

Women form an average of 37 per cent of all academic professionals across UK universities, compared to 31 per cent at York.

Charlie Leyland, YUSU Academic Affairs Officer, has spoken out, stating: “I wonder how a system dominated by white middle-class males affects the diversity of our teaching and learning.”

Although David Garner, University Press Officer, said the University was, “committed to the implementation and monitoring of equality and diversity,” he “recognise[s] that there is more to do”.

When examining departments, Nouse found Computer Science to have just 10.6 per cent of female academic staff – the lowest of all University departments. The Philosophy department has only three women out of 24 staff.­ The Mathematics department was similarly skewed.

When asked to comment on this issue, Garner told Nouse that the Physics department has been recognised by the Institute of Physics for the “efforts it has made to reduce gender inequality among its staff.” Despite this, Nouse found that women account for just 11.6 per cent of academic staff in the Physics department – the department with the third lowest percentage of women at the University.

Leyland cited the University’s “intransigence over issues such as nursery provision, student parent accommodation” and described “a slow move towards flexible and advanced timetabling… as symptomatic of a system which doesn’t take the female or family perspective seriously into account.”

She continued to say how she is “deeply concerned” by the lack of transparency in the University’s promotions system. She stated that “opaqueness in promotion, the most cited cause of the national pay gap, is rife in [York’s] academic environment. This is the most cited cause of the national pay gap.”

She accused the University of concealing their antiquated promotional system under the guise of “academic freedoms”, meaning York “is not leading the way in equality at all levels in what should be a forward thinking, intellectual community.”

Professor Joanna de Groot, Senior Professor of the History Department, agreed that “there is room for the University to improve”, adding that, “the criteria for academic achievements favour particular qualities that are seen as gender specific even if they are not.”

She describes Leyland’s demands for “flexible timetabling” as “complicated”, explaining that, “the ‘long hours’ culture of academia is a real issue, as it’s easier to conform to the demands of long hour culture if you have no dependents.”

However, de Groot believes we must “look to the future not backward.” She added: “When I started out females only made up three to four per cent of Professors.”

The University has also been criticised for gender discrimination in regard to wages for similar jobs.

York has an eight grade pay scale for academic and non-academic staff; just 29 per cent of those on the highest grade of pay (£45,155 upward) are female opposed to 71 per cent male. This is in contrast to those on the lowest grade of pay (£13,856 upward), 64 per cent of whom are female compared to just 36 per cent male.

The vast majority of Senior Managers are male (68 per cent), in contrast to 32 per cent female.

Ceri Goddard, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society, which fights for equality in the workplace, stated: “We need a whole package of measures including tougher requirements on employers, more flexible working and more well paid, part-time working options.”

Ellie Kuper Thomas, an ex-YUSU Women’s Officer, has called the situation “shocking” in such a “liberal institution”.

She continued to say that “the segregation of women into the lower paid jobs, and the dominance of men at the top, appears to be a clear feature of the University’s employment structure”. However, Thomas was keen to stress “the field of academia is amongst the worst in terms of such segregation and pay differentials”.

Garner also commented, saying that the “University is committed to the implementation and monitoring of equality and diversity”, stating that “is just one of the 12 UK universities to win Athena Swan awards in recognition of its success in providing positive support for women scientists during their careers, and demonstrating progress on gender equality in the fields of science, engineering and technology.”­­


  1. Firstly. I do not care what sort of person gives my lectures. They could be female, male, homosexual, heterosexual, trans, British, European or otherwise. What I care about is the quality of my lectures.

    When a teaching post is opened up, an interview process takes place. During that process the interview panel will see a large number of candidates. The panel will then select the best candidate for the job.

    Now seeing as we’re all paying roughly £10,000 in tuition fees each for our degrees (assuming a three year course), I would hope that the university is employing the best people for the job, and if that person happens to be male as opposed to female this shouldn’t impede the freedom of the university to employ who they want.

    My department, Chemistry, was awarded the Athena Swan Gold Award, the first academic department in the country to do so. York was also the first university in the country to be awarded any of the Athena Swan awards, and is still one of only 12 institutions to be awarded them. (For more info: http://www.york.ac.uk/research/athena-swan/)

    I think this proves the university’s commitment to women. The fact that there are more males than females in senior positions is because they were found to be more suitable for the job, no other reason.

    I would rather maintain the quality of my degree by being taught by the best people, than attend a university that has a 50:50, female:male ratio across all pay brackets, with worse teaching.

    Reply Report

  2. “When examining departments, Nouse found Computer Science to have just 10.6 per cent of female academic staff – the lowest of all University departments.”

    When I first started my degree, there were 115 Computer Science students in my class. 6 of them were female. As far as I am aware, the situation is pretty similar in most other science & engineering departments.

    Politically-correct sensationalism aside, the fact of the matter is that few women choose to pursue a career in science. This is regrettable, and I do not know why this is the case, but I very much doubt that this can be attributed to sexist discrimination from the part of the University. In the case of STEM departments, the numbers speak for themselves; the majority of women do not find these subjects to be appealing.

    Instead of crying ‘sexism’ at every opportunity, maybe we should try to understand why this is the case and do something about it.

    Reply Report

  3. At least 4 of the staff you’ve pictured there are dept. of politics, including, it must be said, one of the women.

    Reply Report

  4. 25 May ’10 at 4:30 pm

    Really, Really??

    @ George:

    What about philosophy (which according to the article is made up of only 13% women academics) – from my experience more female than male students study Philosophy yet there is still a hugh predominance of male philosophy academics. Also, I don’t think it is really relevent to say less women apply to jobs in computer science etc., the criticism the article seems to be making is the university’s “antiquated promotional system”. If Charlie Leyland (who is yusu academic officer and presumable therefore knows a little of what she is talking about) say that York is particularly bad when it comes to having a transparent promotions system, then presumable there is a problem.

    Of course the fact that less women take traditionally ‘male’ subjects like computer science and physics will affect the number of female academics in those subjects, but this is no excuse for the University not to ensure there is no bias at all in it’s promotions system.

    Reply Report

  5. I am not a Philosophy student, therefore I do not know much about how this department works. I was referring to STEM departments.

    “Of course the fact that less women take traditionally ‘male’ subjects like computer science and physics will affect the number of female academics in those subjects, but this is no excuse for the University not to ensure there is no bias at all in it’s promotions system.”

    But is there any actual evidence that there is a ‘biased’ promotions system, or is this just an insinuation? As far I can see, the only hard evidence is that the are more male Professors, which is understandable considering that there are very few women studying or pursuing a career in these subjects.

    Anyway, perhaps I could just ask my supervisor for her opinion; she is a Professor and head of one of the department’s largest units. Interestingly, she happens to be the only female member of staff in that unit. Thankfully, that doesn’t seem to have affected her career.

    Reply Report

  6. 1. Your picture caption is about the Philosophy department but the picture you have highlighted is of Sue Mendus who is in the Politics department (she specialises in political philosophy)

    2. This “investigation” means very little without assessing the wider national situation. I.e. Is York, in particular, marginalising female academics, or is the problem a more general national problem in academia? E.g. is the problem that not as many women go in to academia/ not promoted as much? If so, that is the problem that needs solving, not just York’s individual problem. I’m not saying that this is necessarily the case (though I imagine it is), but you need to relate your “findings” to the relevant national context.

    Reply Report

  7. If you take a look at the Biology and chemistry departments, however, there are a lot of well-funded and highly respected female scientists such as Prof. Leyser, Prof. Thomas-Oates, Prof. Carpenter, and Prof. Southgate. The chemistry department even has a Gold athena swan award (the only in the country).

    Likewise, my intake year for biochemistry had a much higher female to male ratio, and during my placement year in a government research facility, the ratio of female:male PhD students was 15:4! I’m not saying that the inequality doesn’t exist, but at least give the university credit where it’s due.

    Reply Report

  8. Hi Anon, thanks for pointing out #1, there was only space to include part of the original image so the caption doesn’t match perfectly.

    Reply Report

  9. Well that still doesn’t explain why you have a picture of a politics lecturer. Or in fact 4 politics lecturers in the paper edition: Matthew Festenstein (bottom right in pic accompanying the article), Jon Parkin or Matt Matravers, the head of the politics department.

    In fact philosophy lists only 17 academic members of staff, so on your front page you have (presumably) 17 philosophy lecturers/ professors, 4 from politics, and 3 still to be identified.

    It really brings into question your entire investigation.

    Reply Report

  10. A pointless article, wasting everyone’s time, lots of innocent trees, and all so its author can get a job with the Guardian…

    Reply Report

  11. 25 May ’10 at 9:14 pm

    Jacques Lacancan

    angry’s comment makes me angry. The fact is, women are inclined to be self-abasing when confronted with situations in which men overwhelmingly dominate in numbers; as a result, a woman can’t suitably think of making a home for herself in academia. Put in–for example–a departmental meeting with a 75/25 per cent man-woman gender split, women will typically be ignored or discredited on the basis of a perceived partiality that is imputed to her difference qua womanhood. The only way to circumvent female impotence is to lend to her the mutuality, or consensus, that might be sustained only through the stasis in which one’s opinion (as a woman) enjoys significance. By that I mean you need to redress the balance so that women compose at least a third of a panel in such a situation as that; and it is necessarily so that you sometimes use positive discrimination to achieve it.

    Reply Report

  12. Positive discrimination is still discrimination. And one would think that the whole point of the feminist movement was to put an end to gender discrimination!

    Here’s the deal; you either believe that discrimination is wrong full stop, or you admit that you find discrimination to be perfectly acceptable as long as it does not damage your personal interests. You can’t have it both ways.

    Reply Report

  13. I don’t know about any of the other pictures, but David Wooton is a member of the Department of History.

    Reply Report

  14. i love the senior gap yah popping his collar in the top right hand corner x

    Reply Report

  15. Surely each academic should be appointed because of their capability to lecture and teach well, rather than their biology?

    Reply Report

  16. Interesting article, but as is so often the case when a story like this is rolled out, the figures for job applications have not been given. Only then can we gain a slightly clearer picture of how much discrimination (if any) is going on at York. The University cannot be criticised for not giving jobs to women who aren’t applying for them.

    Reply Report

  17. “Long hours culture of academia”?!

    The Politics department shuts at 4pm and the History one at 2pm. I think working mums could manage that….

    Reply Report

  18. Oh my God – not enough women in computer science? Who would have thought?!

    As for politics, you shouldn’t look at the number of undergraduate politics students, but the number of doctoral students, as they are the ones who are bound to become professors in the future. I do not know the statistics, so if anyone does, please let us know.


    Reply Report

  19. 26 May ’10 at 11:45 am

    Atilla the Hun

    Please note, as a York 2nd year History student doing a course run by Joanna De Groot, I can assure you she is not a Professor. Yes she is senior in the department, but she is not a Professor. She has been in the department along time and is a senior lecturer. She is not a Professor. In fact neither is she a reader. There is a distinction between these three different titles.
    The order goes:
    Senior Lecturer

    Just for future reference.

    As for Joanna’s comments on making certain sacrifices in order to work long hours…
    The University should do its best to help women make as few sacrifices as possible.

    With regards to the computer science figure… of course the majority of academic staff are going to be men. In all my life, I have never met a female computer scientist/technician, nor have I ever met anyone who is female who has stated “when I want to grow up I want to work in computer science!”.

    With regards to white middle class… maybe people should consider the general ethnic background of students who attend the University as an explanation for this.

    Reply Report

  20. White, male, middle class is a lovely little phrase that easily slides off the tongue; a phrase we often use to highlight a lack of diversity.

    However, if we move beyond the issue of the male (nobody can argue that gender parity has been achieved) and focus on the white and middle class statement, I think it is worth remebering a couple of things.

    First, whereas women make up about 51% of the population and as such questioning the fact that only around 25% of senior academics are female is valid, the proportion of people who are classified in the census as Black or Minority Ethnic (BME) stands at only 12% (ons). Even if we lived in some kind of extreme dystopia of positive discrimination, which ensured a proportional representation of all peoples in all walks of life and all forms of employment, academia would still be overwhelmingly white. I would actually guess that HE and the University of York in particular is one of the more multi-cultural areas of employment.

    With regards ‘middle class’, I wonder on what basis that statement is often made. All members of academic staff are of course middle class, they are likely to be home owners, aspire to a comfortable standard of living, holiday at least once a year, have a realiable vehicle, pay a high rate of tax, and of course, have accessed higher education.

    Academia is a middle class profession and one, regardless of their background, makes the transition into middle class by working towards such a career. It is an inescapable fact; all lecturers, regardless of ethnicity, gender, even their background (which may have been true coal-face working class), must at this stage in their career, accept that they are middle class.

    What is important is that HE serves as a vehicle for people from all backgrounds to pursue such a middle class profession and of course, the whole of HE and especially York, can and must do better. However when well-meaning people such as Charlie Leyland use lazy phrases such as ‘white, male, middle class’, do they know anything about the backgrounds of the academics they seek to describe? They see the white male who is now, by virtue of his profession, middle class and assume that they are from such a background, when in reality many of today’s middle class academics represent the social mobility of the past 40 years.

    Obviously more balance needs to be established in terms of gender, ethnicity, and disability within HE and York, but the place does quite well and pedestrian phrases such as ‘white, male, and middle class’ are not really as insightful as those who wield them profess.

    Reply Report

  21. This article is on a par with Greg Dyke’s comment that the BBC is ‘disgustingly white’. I’d rather the University focussed more upoon quality teaching than the race or sex of its Professors. If people were so concerned about the diversity of academics over reputation and quality then they are free to choose another University based on their priorities.

    Reply Report

  22. “Charlie Leyland, YUSU Academic Affairs Officer, has spoken out, stating: “I wonder how a system dominated by white middle-class males affects the diversity of our teaching and learning.””

    Not so much speaking out as just speaking. Standard Nouse sensationalism.

    ’74 per cent of Heads of Department are also male, compared to 26 per cent female, and 78 per cent of clinical staff are male, with only 22 per cent being female.’

    Well they weren’t going to be 22 per cent wombat, now were they?

    Reply Report

  23. 26 May ’10 at 3:51 pm

    Physics student

    With regards to the £2,718 pay gap, does this include the VC and deputy VC who earn more than your standard professor and would rather skew the numbers? The white middle class phrase is annoying and over used, as Chris said, an academic is by definition middle class. It’s an article of unexplained statistics, what about the frontline experiences of female (or even male) students in male dominated departments, surely these are more important than some expectedly skewed statistics and sensationalist arguments.

    We surely want the best lecturers and researchers regardless of anything else, if there was a claim that the university or departments were being sexist in their recruitment policy then there would be a point, as it is you aren’t and it’s just a set of numbers with no obvious issue except the numbers themselves.

    Reply Report

  24. all i can do is cringe at this article. potentially interesting issue turned into cliché filled pseudo-leftist sensationalism.

    Reply Report

  25. The article does shoot wide of the mark in a couple of places but still raises valid points. Why are there fewer women in positions of authority? Physics won a national award for gender-balancing but only 12% of their academic staff are women – why do we see that as being award-worthy? It’s good that it’s getting better but it’s nowhere near accurate.

    And I think that the BME point is valid – most of the staff who are BME are actually international, and that isn’t the same issue. Why are BME students in the UK not going on to work in lecturing positions as often as non-BME students?

    There is a lot there for the university to consider, when they consider themselves a “diversity-championing university”. Our university enjoy saying that they have a high moral standard but don’t seem to be keeping up with their rhetoric with action. There needs to be more movement and I hope that there is serious consideration in the university as to how to do that without simply applying positive discrimination to everything.

    Reply Report

  26. First of all “An investigation” is a bit of an exageration for what you have actually done. A real investigation into this subject would take you a really long time and you would come back with a far more interesting article. As far as I can see all you have done is count the number of profs in each department and then run to the nearest feminist. I’d bet most secondary school students could knock that together in a few hours.

    The whole “73 per cent” male “23 percent” female and the other 5 examples of the writer stating “you are so stupid you can’t work out 100 – a two digit number” were really were childish.

    And as for starting off in the begining paragraph by claiming “dominance of males” provides a nice summary for the entire article in that goes pretty much like this:
    ZOMG men get paid more than women, ZOMG again there are more men than women at the university, that must mean that the university is super duper sexist.

    For the “deputy news editor” it’s quite surprising to find someone so bad at writing news. I’d suggest you actually go and do some real research, like for example talk to all female lecturers asking them about their application to work at the university. Or talk to the people responsible for choosing who gets jobs that are availiable anything like that would have been far better than simply going to someone from YUSU and the press officer.

    Reply Report

  27. “Physics won a national award for gender-balancing but only 12% of their academic staff are women – why do we see that as being award-worthy? It’s good that it’s getting better but it’s nowhere near accurate.”

    I think it’s because the article even mentions that it used to be 3-4%. Thus that means the number of women in the physics department has quadrupled or tripled. Make the money in your bank increase in the same way and ask me if that isn’t a good thing :P

    Reply Report

  28. The article would have been more reliable not only if it had accurately recorded the membership of the Philosophy Department but also if it had put the gender balance of academics in the Philosophy Department at York into a national and international context.

    A cursory glance at some of the online material on this matter reveals that the gender imbalance in Philosophy Departments is a national and international phenomenon.

    An article in a popular philosophy magazine:


    Even Wikipedia seems to have done better:


    A good summary of international discussions:


    Given that the problem of gender imbalance in Philosophy Departments is a national and international phenomenon, the article is misleading in singling out the Philosophy Department at York as guilty of this problem.

    Furthermore, the article might have pointed out that two out of the last three appointments to full-time academic posts in the Department have been women.

    Reply Report

  29. 27 May ’10 at 5:50 pm

    Ralph de Cordova

    Presumably women have souls and don’t want to do superficial investigations into abstract logic for the most part of their lives.

    Reply Report

  30. Sigh, This article would have been so much more interesting if its headline had been “ACADEMIC SAUSAGE FEST”.

    Reply Report

  31. Matt Bailey has it spot on. Common sense.

    Reply Report

  32. Ralph de Cordova, please don’t be so ignorant. For example, the statement “Presumably women have souls” makes huge assumptions philosophically and would require a lot of solid argument to back it up. Not that I’m being petty or anything.

    Reply Report

  33. this isn’t a story

    Reply Report

  34. I’m concerned with the poor ‘research’ of this article.

    For example, it wouldn’t be surprising to find that there are few women in computer science if it turns out that women don’t tend to be interested in it. I wonder what % men are represented across universities for ‘gender’ studies? Surely it is not enough to look at the % men and % women. Don’t you need to know the ratio of female applicants to female employees?

    As for the pay gap. Have you accounted for maternity and paternity leave taken, etc? Again you need a ratio of application for promotion to promotions granted stat to know anything.

    These figures show that there is an imbalance, but you can’t tell at all from these figures if there is any discrimination. The only fair way ahead is to have an equal chance of a job as a woman or man (on average). We don’t know if this is the case from these stats.

    Reply Report

  35. We need more in Philosophy

    Comment edited by a moderator

    Reply Report

  36. What would be interesting is to see the difference in percentage of male and female staff who believe they get a fair salary broken down by pay band.

    Reply Report

  37. I actually think that a pay gap of £2,718 isn’t too bad.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think pay should be equal, but society can’t catch up with itself immediately.

    Feminists must remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. And neither will pay equality at an institution as unwieldy as this university.

    Reply Report

Leave a comment

Please note our disclaimer relating to comments submitted. Please do not post pretending to be another person. Nouse is not responsible for user-submitted content.