The leader of one of Scotland’s oldest universities has told an employment tribunal that it is “shameful” so few women are promoted to senior roles within the institution.

In an unusual move, Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli, Principal of 
the University of Glasgow, was 
cross-examined by Jeanette Findlay, who claims she was overlooked for a professorship in 2020 because of her sex.

She presented data showing that as of 2020 only 11 per cent in senior roles within her department of economics were female, with 36% in social sciences and just 16% in science and engineering.

Ms Findlay told the tribunal the university was founded in 1451 and 
the first professor of economics was appointed – externally – in 2011.

She said this was in part due to women being unable to undertake as much research as men due to caring responsibilities, which can require overseas travel and is a vital component of promotion to professorship.

Ms Findlay, who was made a professor of economics this month, claims she was the victim of direct and indirect sex discrimination in her application.

She said the university failed to invite evidence of caring commitments, related to her mother  and therefore did not take them into account. 

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She claimed women were “over-burdened with teaching and admin”, citing figures showing the percentage of female academics in learning and teaching in 2020 was 76%, compared to 51% of men.

She said this put women at a disadvantage because candidates are judged on the societal impact of their research and the academic “esteem” they are held in.

She asked the principal, one of the UK’s leading economists, if he agreed it was “shameful” that in 2020 women make up 30% of staff in economics but only 11% are professors.

He agreed but said it was a “very typical picture 
in academia”.

Prof Muscatelli chairs the Board of Review that considers promotion applications.

He said the university had set a new target to achieve a 50/50 split of men 
and women in senior roles by 2030 and said over the past two years women had “outperformed men”.

Ms Findlay said that in academia there was a general issue of women “under-selling their achievements and men overselling”.

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She said: “We know that in STEM [science, technology, engineering and maths] subjects, how difficult it is to [encourage] women to senior levels.

“At Glasgow it is 16%, it’s not great is it? At economics it’s 11%, it’s not great is it?”

The university’s Principal told the tribunal he would have to compare the figures to other universities.

Prof Findlay claimed she applied “almost every year” for mentoring to help her achieve promotion but “didn’t get a single response” apart from being 
sent a link to a website with further information. The university principal said this would be “concerning”.

After her application was rejected she raised a grievance with the university.

The tribunal was told her application was reviewed by a marketing specialist, which she described as inappropriate.

She said the university’s procedures had also been affected by confirmation bias because the individual was told her application had been rejected in advance.

She claimed this was “not the usual practice”.

The tribunal is expected to last a further two weeks.