University of Edinburgh
Higher education institutions have notoriously trailed behind other sectors in measures of gender equality, but the gap is thought to be improving. Has the University done enough? If not, how should we proceed in tackling inequality?
Sexism and gender inequality isn’t only a problem for academia, as the UK’s gender equality ranking has dropped out of the top 20. In the business sector, Laura French writes that Women Aren’t Getting to the Top – Why?. In order to tackle this problem, instituting gender quotas has been suggested – Chris Blackhurst claims that While Men Are in Charge, Quotas Are the Only Way, whereas Erika Watson argues that Quotas Aren’t the Best Way.
As it happened
On November 7th we met to discuss the ways in which sexism still plagues universities as institutions, and how we can work to reduce this in the University specifically, and academia more broadly. The event was chaired by Dr. Kieran Oberman of the Just World Institute, and all three of our speakers responded to the title of the event in the negative: no, the University has not eliminated sexism.
Prof. Jane Norman (Professor of Maternal and Fetal Health, Vice Principal, Equality and Diversity) spoke to the sexist history of UK universities and the progress that has been made since Edinburgh University’s founding. Further, she commented on the current state of affairs, pointing to the pay gap, lack of representation of women in higher echelons of academia, and empirical research on implicit bias in hiring and promotions practices as on-going and persistent injustices.
Eve Livingston (EUSA Vice President, Societies and Activities) highlighted the ways in which the student experience of gender equality is influenced by broader societal influences upon arrival at university, such as the increase and prevalence of lad culture, and its effect on perceived acceptance and normalising of sexism.
Dr. Elinor Mason (Lecturer in Philosophy) identified four ways in which universities might be sexist: 1. straightforwardly sexist rules, 2. rules whose application has sexist consequences, 3. people applying the rules who themselves have either explicit or implicit biases, and 4. people breaking the rules, as in the case of sexual harassment. While the first form has largely been eliminated, the last three still plague our institutions.