Gender inequity remains a major problem in Australian universities, a new report hasrevealed.

Women, Careers and Universities: Where to from here?was unveiled in Brisbane on Friday (October 7), and shows women continue to be underrepresented at senior levels of academia.

The study also shed new light on the many and diverse labour markets that exist within the typical university structure.

Vertical segregation by gender remains a factor in the tertiary education sector despite the introduction and implementation of policies in recent years aimed specifically at breaking this pattern.

“Women are disproportionately represented at the lower levels and men are disproportionately represented at the higher levels of both academic and professional staff,” Professor Glenda Strachan, Griffith Business School, said.

“While numerous equity strategies have been developed at universities across the country, many of these are ineffective because they have not looked closely enough at the different patterns of inequality in different groups. This can vary from IT to HR, from teaching staff to people working in facilities.”

Gender equity remains below APS benchmarks

Researchers from Griffith University and the University of Queensland worked in partnership with Universities Australia on the report. The National Tertiary Education Union, Unisuper and 19 universities also collaborated on the project.

“It is important that universities respond to the fact that gender equity in academic staff is still below Australian Public Service benchmarks–and those aren’t especially high benchmarks to begin with,” Professor David Peetz, Department of Employment Relations and Human Resources, said.

“This is unlikely to change with the passage of time unless further proactive steps are taken by universities.”

Job insecurity also on the rise

Increases in the number of casual teaching staff and research staff on fixed-term contracts were found to be at the core of the growth in insecurity. Eighty-four percent of research-focused academics were employed on fixed-term contracts, the report found.

“The lack of a career path was a notable trait of fixed-term and casual academic teaching staff,” Dr Kaye Broadbent, a senior lecturer at Griffith Business School, said.

“Casual academic teaching staff often felt invisible within the university and struggled to gain access to basic resources.”