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University Lecturers: Women

Volume 472: debated on Wednesday 20 February 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what steps the Government has taken to recruit more women as university lecturers since 1997. (164038)

[holding answer 15 November 2007]: The responsibility for recruiting staff lies with higher education institutions (HEIs), as the employers. However, we have instituted a number of measures to support higher education institutions (HEIs) in this area. Through the Rewarding and Developing Staff initiative, we have supported HEIs in developing their human resource capability—recruitment and retention, and equal opportunities were two of the six priority areas.

We launched the Athena SWAN Charter in 2005 to address the low representation of women within science, engineering and technology (SET) in HEIs. The charter is funded by the Equality Challenge Unit (which is responsible for supporting HEIs to help them improve their equality practice) and the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills through the UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology (UKRC). The charter encourages universities and research institutions in the recruitment, retention and progression of women lecturers and researchers within SET. 26 universities have signed up to the charter and this year saw the first gold award made—to the chemistry department, university of York—to recognise that institution’s high achievements in this area.

There has been a rising trend in the number of women academics working in higher education. In 2005/06, 41.9 per cent. of academics in UK HE institutions were female, compared to 32.9 per cent. in 1996/97.