Despite an increase in the numbers of women and people of ethnic minorities joining academia, very few become professors or managers according to the Equality Challenge Unit.
The Unit’s Equality in Higher Education Staff Statistical Report 2016 found that less than 3 in 10 professors are women or people of ethnic minority origin. Just under 22% of professors are white women. Ethnic minorities are even more poorly represented, with around 7.3% BME (black or other minority ethnic) men, and only 1.9% BME women.
The study suggested similar trends in the makeup of senior managers, with women occupying just over a fifth of vice-chancellor and principal positions in universities. Among senior managers, 67.5% where white men, just over 28% white women, 3.3% BME men and less than 1% BME women.
This level of representation in senior positions is inspite of a notable increase in the number of female academic staff to 45%.
The study recognised universities’ efforts to diversify their staff with schemes to recognise and encourage the work of women and ethnic minorities in academia, but stated that not enough was being done to tackle discrimination in the top tier of management.
Among the study’s recommendations is to allocate more research into identifying where discrimination occurs at universities. One factor identified by the Vice-Chancellor and Pro Vice Chancellor at the University of Leicester is inequality in the numbers of men and women who apply for grant applications compared to those who secure it.
Higher Education in Britain is failing black women and black people in general.
Akwugo Emejulu, Professor of Sociology, University of Warwick
Diversity among academic staff at Warwick was lower than the national average, according to a Freedom of Information request submitted by the Boar in 2015.
Around 28% of academic staff were female, compared to the national average of 44% as reported by the Higher Education Statistics Agency.
Only 12% of the University’s academic staff identified as BME.
Upon her arrival at the University as a professor of Sociology and as one of our few black academics, Akwugo Emejulu told the Boar: “There’s something going on here about the lack of representation of women of colour and in particular black women in the top ranks at University.
“Higher Education in Britain is failing black women and black people in general.”
She attributed part of the problem to a lack of targeted mentorship for students of underrepresented identities: “If you’re told consistently you don’t really belong here, and you see the different kinds of support that are being offered to your fellow students, that’s sending you a strongly negative message.”
According to the Runnymeade Trust’s latest findings from last year, there are only 17 black female professors in the United Kingdom.