Academic gender gap narrowing in Australian universities

Frank Larkins looks at the gender gap among university staff in the last decade.

By Frank Larkins, Professor Emeritus in the School of Chemistry and a former Deputy Vice Chancellor of the University of Melbourne

Summary of findings

Australian Universities have recruited more academic and non-academic female staff than male staff in the past decade. In the ten years from 2008 to 2017 some 66 percent of all new staff were female. The academic gender gap has now narrowed to less than five percent in favour of males because the recruitment ratio has been 1.4 new females for every new male employed. More females are now being appointed at the senior lecturer and above levels than at any previous time.

The non-academic staff gap has further widened in favour of females because 2.8 females have been recruited for every new male employee since 2008. There is a large disparity in the tasks undertaken with females performing 66 per cent of the non-academic functions and 45 percent of the academic functions. Females are also more likely to hold fractional-time appointments. A historic landmark has been achieved with more female university staff being tenured than males. In 2007 there were only minor differences in the age profile distribution for males and females.

These positive gender trends are not reflected in the student-to-staff ratio. In the past decade for every academic staff member recruited some 31 new students were enrolled.  This compares with the 2008 base position where universities had employed one academic staff member for every 23 students enrolled. There are now more female academic staff to act as mentors and role models for the growth in female student enrolments; however, the increased student-to-staff ratio does make the task of maintaining a quality educational experience more challenging.

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Professor Emeritus Frank P. Larkins