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Share of women in top roles up, but still far from equal


European academia still trailing on gender equality, particularly for leadership roles

Women still make up a small minority of rectors and vice-rectors in Europe, according to a new analysis, although figures for senior roles are inching towards parity with men.

The European University Association reported on 6 March that, based on a survey of its members, in 2020 just 15 per cent of rectors and 30 per cent of vice-rectors were women.

Out of 48 European and Eurasian countries covered by the survey, 20 had no female rectors, including Hungary, Ireland and Poland. But this was down from 22 the year before, and EUA reported that the total number of women rectors increased by 38 per cent between 2014 and 2020.

The figures were better for vice-rectors, with men and women roughly at parity in five European countries while in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Latvia and Norway female vice-rectors are in the majority.

Parity was more common further down the institutional hierarchy, such as among heads of international offices, communication, research and quality assurance, the survey found.

“As women move up the academic leadership ladder, they are considerably more underrepresented,” the EUA said. “The bottlenecks for female leaders seem to be the achievement of full professorship, which is considered as a prerequisite for top-level positions, such as rectors or vice-rectors.”

EU research and education commissioner Mariya Gabriel used the occasion of International Women’s Day on 8 March to announce a campaign to celebrate successful women in research, innovation and education.

Gabriel said she hoped the European Commission’s online biographies of women such as Marie Skłodowska Curie would inspire other women to “fulfil [their] ambitions and go after [their] dreams”.