Ivory Towers and Glass Ceilings: Women in Non-traditional Fields

Sharon Bell

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

    4 Citations (Scopus)


    When a Fair Chance for All was published in 1990 women comprised 51 % of all higher education students but only 34 % of higher degree students. In 2015 women constitute a majority of undergraduate and higher degree research students. Women’s growing participation and success in higher education is to be applauded. Yet the semblance of parity disguises persistent patterns of inequality and raises questions regarding to what degree changes in participation are largely reflective of global and societal trends rather than the impact of equity policy.

    Growth in women’s participation remains primarily in disciplines that are historically highly feminised. In Australia, despite pressing and impending workforce needs, the equity category women in non-traditional areas of study has fallen off the policy table, with the notable exception, and only recently, of women in science.

    High levels of undergraduate and improving post-graduate participation and success have not created the hoped-for ‘pipeline’ of female graduates to transform the research sector or the academy, which remains, particularly at the senior levels, and in most research-intensive disciplines and institutions, male dominated.

    Recent studies provide evidence of persistent patterns of horizontal segregation (by discipline) and vertical segregation (by level of seniority and measures of esteem) of women in higher education and research. Change is partly dependent on revisiting the original Fair Chance for All focus on women in non-traditional disciplines and significantly on improving university employment opportunities for recent PhD graduates and generating equity of access to the pathways to these opportunities.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationStudent Equity in Australian Higher Education
    Subtitle of host publicationTwenty-five Years of A Fair Chance for All
    Place of PublicationAustralia
    Number of pages15
    ISBN (Electronic)978-981-10-0315-8
    ISBN (Print)978-981-10-0313-4
    Publication statusPublished - 2016


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