The number of women in academic leadership roles is growing slowly. Whilst this is good news, could more be done to encourage women leaders in academia? We believe so. But how?
As the number of women decreases at every stage of the academic scale (Parker et al 2018)  the underrepresentation of women in senior positions continues to be a phenomenon of university careers.
Research from Advance HE shows that while women make up 54% of the sector’s workforce and occupy 45% of academic jobs, only 28% of academic managers and 21% of professors are women . At the time of the study, these figures dropped even lower at vice-chancellor and principal level, with only 17% of women holding the top job. Further research, in collaboration with the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education (LFHE), also reveals that women are less likely than men to be successful in their applications for senior roles .
Higher education has the potential to provide a stimulating and rewarding career opportunity for all of its employees. However, the statistics indicate that women may face more barriers to career progression than anticipated. Advance HE’s report ‘What Works: Supporting Women’s Careers’  outlines some of the barriers and imbalances, including:
- Access to training and development
- Allowing flexible working
- Encouraging mentoring and coaching courses
To address these challenges, our panel of experts share their experiences and provide recommendations for both individuals and universities, to support women’s career progression in higher education.
We also held two highly successful webinars with a panel of women leaders in higher education. You can read ‘How to navigate the barriers and challenges in higher education’ and ‘How to champion yourself’ summary notes or watch both webinars here:
Case studies of successful women in Higher Education
We spoke to several female leaders to find out how they became successful in a male-dominated arena, and how others could follow in their footsteps.
- Christina Hughes – Founder and CEO of Women-Space.
- Professor Chris Ennew OBE – Provost, University of Warwick.
- Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, FRS, President and Vice-Chancellor, University of Manchester.
- Norma Jarboe OBE, the founder and Director of Women Count.
The rise of women leaders
Women now make up 56.6% of students and many have progressed on to be Heads of Departments, Deans of Faculty and Pro-Vice Chancellors. Women leaders are literally changing the HE game from inside out. But what heralded this ‘irresistible rise of women leaders’ into higher education?
For more career advice see:
- Speak Up! Your Secret Weapon for Career Success
- Being a Professor – A Personal Journey to Professorship
- An Ethical Career – How You Can Make a Positive Impact
- How to Return to Study
-  Frank and Fearless: Supporting Academic Career Progression for Women in an Australian Program (unimelb.edu.au)
-  Advance HE: Support women in your workplace through practices that help advance women’s careers
-  ECU / LFHE: career progression of women in HE leadership
-  What Works: Supporting Women’s Careers