Most university students are women, but most professors are men

Study finds that female representation in institutions of higher learning goes down the higher the level

Inside a classroom in the Biology Faculty of the University of Barcelona (Ana Amat)
Inside a classroom in the Biology Faculty of the University of Barcelona (Ana Amat) / Oliver Little

ACN | Barcelona

December 17, 2019 12:43 PM

Most university students are women, but among university teaching and research staff they are in a minority, finds a new report by the Xarxa Vives d'Universitats network.

Some 54% of undergraduates and masters students are women, as are 51% of doctoral students, yet only 42% of teaching and research staff are female, says the study.

What's more, the report says that while there is little difference between the genders in junior university posts, the more senior the rank, the less women are represented.

According to the study, six out of every 10 associate professors are men, which rises to eight out 10 for full professors, while there are also fewer women among university governors.

Management, research, and admin posts

Only 38% of decision-making posts are occupied by women, and among the network's 22 member universities only four of them have a female rector.

Research is also an area in universities with a deficit of women, with fewer women in research groups and only 31% of research projects headed by women. 

By contrast, women are in a majority in university administrative posts and make up 70% of staff, but only 30% are in higher management positions, says the study. 

Female academic staff make 87% of applications for maternity leave and reduced hours, while women make up 100% and 97% of the respective applications among admin staff.

Gender differences among students

Meanwhile, most students may be women, but they account for only 25% of those studying such areas such as engineering and agriculture, finds the report.

By contrast, the figures in the report say that more than 64% of the students doing health sciences, or arts and humanities subjects are women.

At the same time, women pass the subjects they are studying in higher proportions than men in all subjects, while more men than women give up their studies (20% to 17%).

The Xarxa Vives d'Universitats, which represents 22 universities in the Catalan language domain, proposes that institutions review their gender equality policies.

The network also calls for evaluation of any relationship between gender inequality and quality in the university to quantify the needs of staff in balancing work and family life.