Gender equality scheme

The details and data on this webpage consists of information before the Scottish Specific Duties (2012) came into force, for current information please refer to webpages:
  1. Introduction
  2. Legal context
  3. Scottish higher education context - gender equality
  4. University of St Andrews context - gender equality
  5. What has the University done so far to foster gender equality?
  6. Consultation
  7. Gender equality task group
  8. Impact assessments
  9. Review of the gender equality scheme
  10. Gender equality action plan
  11. Appendix

1. Introduction

This Gender Equality Scheme aims to promote equality of opportunity for all men and women working and studying at the University, or applying to do so; further advance an environment where unlawful discrimination and harassment are not tolerated and ensure that men and women participate fully and equally in the University community.

The slogan of the Equal Opportunities Commission is ‘Women. Men. Different. Equal.’ This Scheme does not set out to ensure that the University achieves, as its definitive goal, a 50:50 split in gender ratios or sameness between the sexes. Where this is a reasonable and achievable expectation, the University will aim to attain this, but it is possible that there will always be differences in the choices that women and men make in their education and careers; what is important is that any unjustifiable barriers or obstacles that limit achievement are dismantled.

The Scottish Funding Council has said that only by safeguarding and promoting gender equality can policy makers and society as a whole ensure that human talent can flourish for the benefit of individuals and society.

This Gender Equality Scheme aims to provide a straightforward and practical means to achieve improvements in the equality of men, women and transsexual people.

2. Legal context

The Gender Equality Duty, created by the Equality Act 2006, builds on and strengthens the Sex Discrimination Act 1974 and the subsequent Equal Pay Act. This new duty places a proactive obligation on public authorities, including Universities, to promote gender equality.

Under the Gender Equality Duty, public authorities are required to pay due regard, in all of their functions, to the need to:

  • Eliminate unlawful discrimination and harassment on the grounds of sex.
  • Promote equality of opportunity between men and women.

This is known as the general duty.

The legislation also introduces specific duties to assist us in meeting the general duty, which requires that we:

  • Produce and publish an equality scheme identifying our gender equality objectives, including equal pay objectives.
  • Monitor and review progress.
  • Review the scheme every three years.
  • Gather and use information on how the public authority’s policies and practices affect gender equality in the workforce and in the delivery of services.
  • Conduct and publish gender impact assessments of all policies and practices.

The legislation came into force in April 2007 and, in Scotland, all public authorities have to have their gender equality scheme published by the 29 June 2007.

In essence, the duty requires that the University be proactive regarding gender equality and not reactive by making adjustments after something has happened. The University also has a statutory duty to pay due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination and harassment of transsexual staff, students and potential staff and students.

3. Scottish higher education context – gender equality

Women are 25 per cent more likely to enter Higher Education (HE) in Scotland than men. This gap has occurred since the early to mid nineties at which time there was almost no difference. There are marked differences between women and men in terms of the subjects that they study at HE level; similar patterns in subject choice in schools influence this.

Girls outperform boys at all levels of attainment in both publicly-funded and independent schools.

Female applicants to Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) outnumber male applicants.

In 2003/4, 40 per cent of academic staff in Scottish HEIs were women and 60 per cent were men. There has been a slow but steady improvement in the number of women academics in HEIs over the last 10 years or so.

The gender differences increase considerably in senior positions. Women are much less likely than men to be senior academics: only 14 per cent of professors and 20 per cent of senior lecturers are women. The situation has become slightly worse at professorial level as in 1997/98, 15 per cent of professors in Scotland were women.

Four out of 20 (20%) Scottish Funding Council funded HEIs in Scotland have women principals.

With the exception of education and subjects allied to medicine, men academics outnumber women academics in all subjects. This is particularly noticeable in the physical sciences, mathematical and computer sciences and engineering.

The Women and Work Commission published a report in 2006 which reiterated the extent to which there is still a pay gap between men and women and gender segregation at work. While many issues are out with the control of HEIs, one of the recommendations of the report was that the education system be used to challenge gender stereotyping.

4. University of St Andrews context - gender equality

The University of St Andrews has not escaped the issues regarding gender equality that affect HE in general. In fact, the University’s gender equality performance regarding academic staff is worse than the Scottish HE average, with a 30 per cent to 70 per cent split between women and men (this includes the categories of teaching and research, research only and teaching only) compared to an average of 40 per cent to 60 per cent.

12 per cent of the Professors in the University are women, which is slightly below the national average of 14 per cent.

Encouragingly, the proportion of women academics recruited to the University over the years has shown a steady improvement.

Recently, it has been reported in the press that there is a gender pay gap between male and female academics in St Andrews, with women being paid, on average, less than men. The University views the investigation of this situation as a top priority and the undertaking of an equal pay audit has been incorporated into the gender equality action plan.

Like many organisations in the UK, occupational segregation appears to exist in the University within job categories that have been traditionally seen as male or female occupations. 88 per cent of the University’s clerical staff are women, all the Trades staff are male, 28 per cent of technical staff are women and 19% of the cleaners in Estates are men. This is not unusual in the UK as a whole. Many of the factors that affect this situation are out with the University’s control, but the University can still work towards improving this situation.

The latest figures on student numbers show that women make up 55 per cent of student FTEs (undergraduate and postgraduate combined), 57 per cent of undergraduates and 48 per cent of postgraduates.

The University falls in line with UK trends by having far fewer female than male students in subjects like the physical sciences, mathematics and computer sciences and having more female than male students in biological sciences and medicine. Again, this is a situation that is largely outwith the University’s control but steps can be taken to promote gender equality in this area.

In the HESA data for 2005/2006, it would appear that a larger proportion of male students receive first class degrees. The Academic Audit Committee has been monitoring this situation and has not found any instances of gender discrimination; it will continue to monitor the situation and this will be incorporated into an objective in the gender equality action plan.

5. What has the University done so far to foster gender equality?

The University is fully committed to equality in general and has been for many years. This commitment is laid down in the University’s Equality Statement. When looking at the strategic plan, the pledge to equality is clear, for example, in the fact that the University is committed to improving the diversity of entrants to its academic programmes, attracting a greater number of less advantaged students and ensuring equal pay for work of equal value.

The University has an Equal Opportunities Committee which reports directly to the University Court and is charged with implementing the University’s equal opportunities policies including this Gender Equality Scheme.

Much work has already been done in the areas of race and disability equality as a result of recent legislation and gender equality has been on the University’s agenda for some time as a result of the stark and well documented gender imbalance, particularly in senior positions, in academia in the UK and internationally.

During 2005, the University undertook a review of its gender performance within academia. The Master set up a working party of senior female academics from across the faculties to conduct the review. The review sought to identify trends in gender performance and what, if anything, the University should be doing to improve its current gender performance.

The report made several interesting observations including comment on the lack of ‘senior’ women in the University which, the report considered is, in part, due to historic hiring practices. Anecdotally, this appears to be a sector-wide issue which, in turn, results in a limited pool of potential applicants for internal promotion, which then leads to difficulties attracting senior woman applicants. This would go some way to explain the relative shortage of senior women in the University.

The report produced several recommendations and these have been incorporated into the Gender Equality Action Plan.

The Equal Opportunities Committee recommended that a similar exercise be conducted for non-academic staff and this is also included as an action point in the action plan.

At the time that the above report was being compiled, some practical measures were implemented with immediate effect, for example, all but the top point of the Lecturer A scale was abolished so all new and existing lecturers were appointed or moved to this point. This avoided any gender disparity in pay. It would also appear that women academics take on a bigger share of pastoral duties in Schools, and it was agreed that methods should be evolved to record and value pastoral and teaching workload in order to take this into account. The timings of seminars within Schools were moved so that they take place, for the most part, during normal working hours.

There was an historic and notable gender imbalance in the wardennial teams within the University. Women were greatly underrepresented and it was recognised that this should be rectified as soon as possible. This situation was treated as a priority and, as a result, from September 2007, there is an almost equal gender balance in the wardennial teams as a whole.

Other initiatives that have contributed positively to gender equality

  • Framework Agreement and job evaluation.
  • Childcare voucher scheme.
  • Female academic (including Teaching Fellows and Research Fellows) networking scheme.
  • Equal Opportunities training for all staff.
  • Recruitment and Selection training for all convenors of selection panels.
  • Springboard development programme.
  • Anonymous exam marking.
  • Equality monitoring statistics for the recruitment of staff and students have been provided to the Equal Opportunities Committee for several years.

Initiatives currently under way

  • Update of Flexible Working Policy to give the right to all staff to request flexible working arrangements.
  • Revamp of the Harassment and Bullying Policy for staff and students and revision of the Harassment Contact Network so it is representative of the University community.
  • Improvement in data monitoring capabilities to highlight any gender imbalances.
  • The University has become part of Equality Forward’s Combined Equalities Pilot Project (Equality Forward has been set up by the Scottish Funding Council).
  • Equal Pay Statement to be in place by September 2007.

Although the University has gone some way to tackle gender equality issues, it recognises that it could do more to promote gender equality and mainstream it into its activities.

6. Consultation

Before drafting this Scheme, the trade unions, the Students’ Association and the Research Staff Forum were asked if they had any particular views on the issue of gender equality within the University.

Some of the comments that came back included:

  • Ensure promotions procedure is transparent and well publicised, with no gender discrimination.
  • Lack of female academic role models at all levels for students within the University.
  • The University should have practical objectives that can be evaluated/measured.

The draft version of this scheme has been out for consultation with comments being incorporated into this document.

7. Gender equality task group

There are objectives in the Gender Equality Action Plan that will require careful consideration to ascertain the best way to achieve them. To this end, a Gender Equality Task Group will be set up to implement the Gender Equality Scheme. The Task Group will report to the Equal Opportunities Committee and its membership will consist of a wide cross section of staff including trade union and Students’ Association representatives.

8. Impact assessments

The aim of an impact assessment is to examine policies and practice in a structured way to ensure that disproportionately adverse effects on particular groups, in this instance, women, men and transsexuals, are avoided.

The University is currently in the process of devising an impact assessment process that will cover all aspects of equality. It is, therefore, envisaged that equality impact assessments will be approached in a holistic way and that gender will not have separate impact assessments done.

9. Review of the gender equality scheme

The Scheme will be reviewed every 3 years by the Equal Opportunities Committee who, in turn, will report directly to the University Court. In addition, the progression of the Scheme and the action plan will be a standing item on the Committee’s agenda.

10. Gender equality action plan

The Gender Equality Action Plan lays out the University’s key gender equality objectives for the next 3 years. The main areas that these objectives focus on are, in summary, as follows:

  • Tackling the gender pay gap and ensuring equal pay for work of equal value.
  • Fostering an environment that attracts women academics and encourages their progression.
  • Tackling occupational/study segregation.
  • Raising awareness of gender equality through training, particularly for Heads of Schools/Units.
  • Improving equality data gathering and monitoring so that any gender issues can be identified quickly.
  • Promoting flexible working and work/life balance.

If you have any queries regarding this scheme, please contact Louise Milne in Human Resources on extension 2557 or email