An academic has lost her sex discrimination fight against one of Scotland's oldest universities but the institution has been urged to review its promotion procedures.

Jeanette Findlay claimed her application to be made a Professor of Economics was rejected by the University of Glasgow on account of her gender.

The tribunal was told that as of January 2020, there had never been a woman promoted to a Chair in Economics at Glasgow University in the entire history of the university from its foundation in 1451.

Professor Anton Muscatelli said during the hearing that it was “shameful” so few women were promoted to senior roles within the institution.

However, an employment judge agreed with the university, that the 62-year-old's application was turned down because she did not meet the promotion criteria and it was "unconnected to her sex". 

Commenting on the ruling, the Glasgow-based academic said she was "disappointed by not surprised given that few women win sex discrimination cases."

Ms Findlay was a senior lecturer at the Adam Smith Business School when she applied to be promoted to Professor of Economics in January 2020 and had been a university employee for 33 years.


However, her application was not supported by her line manager and head of school, Professor John Finch, who said she only met three out of the four required criteria.

He said she had not met the standard for 'esteem' which includes awards and invitations to join fellowships.

READ MORE: 'Serious concern' over student sexual assault reporting at Scots university 

His decision was backed by the College Promotions Committee and the Board of Review.

She appealed the decision and the university sought an independent reviewer who agreed with the outcome.

Ms Findlay took the case to a tribunal saying she had been the victim of unlawful, indirect sex discrimination, contrary to Section 19 of the Equality Act 2010. 

She said her career trajectory was "very typical" for female academics who were allocated high levels of teaching while men were more likely to be able to take up research opportunities, which often included overseas travel.

In the 2020 Professor promotion round, women had an 83% success rate against esteem compared with 95% for men.

However, overall, women did better than men in four out of the seven criteria.


Ms Findlay, who represented herself at the tribunal, said she had received no mentoring, while male colleagues had received informal support.

She said she had repeatedly asked for career guidance with no guidance being offered, leaving her feeling "unsupported".

READ MORE: University of Glasgow academic resigns saying 'culture of misogyny is flourishing'

She also asserted that the university had failed to take into account caring responsibilities for her mother.

However, the university claimed that prior to submitting her promotion application she had not spoken to any of her managers about her interest in being promoted and said her 2020 application did not include any information about her caring responsibilities.

The tribunal judge said the fact that another woman had been made a professor of economics "defeated" the sex discrimination case.

Ms Findlay was promoted to the post last year. The tribunal was told that prior to her application in October 2020 she was appointed a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, in March 2021, she was made Vice President of
UCU Scotland  and in April 2021, she was elected to the General Council of the Scottish Economic Society.

Her manager said this meant she had now met the criteria for esteem. 

READ MORE: University of Glasgow gender violence report highlights concerns

While the full panel rejected her claim of sex discrimination, in his closing remarks, Employment judge Ian Mcpherson called on the university's governing bodies to review mentoring, career development and academic promotion polices.

He said the application process should also be reviewed to include more guidance on circumstances that might affect career advancement such as caring responsibilities. 

He was critical that a scheme that promotes gender equality was not in place in all schools within the university.

He said it was also clear from the evidence that there were long-serving employees whose careers appeared to have stalled at grades 7-9 and said the university should also consider reviewing equality impact assessments related to promotion.

Ms Findlay said: "I am obviously disappointed but not terribly surprised given that very few women win sex discrimination cases. 

"Notwithstanding all of that, the Tribunal did make 14 separate recommendations to the University to improve its practices and processes and, if these are implemented as the University would be advised to do, this will be a significant improvement for women in their employ.

"I will take legal advice over the coming days on the prospects for an appeal but I recognise that there are very limited grounds on which a claimant can appeal so that route might be closed to me."

The university has a target to achieve a 50-50 gender split in professorial roles by 2030.

A University of Glasgow spokesman said: “We are pleased the employment tribunal found that Professor Findlay was not discriminated against, on the grounds of her sex, directly, or indirectly, when her 2020 application for promotion was unsuccessful.

"The claim made against the University was “dismissed in its entirety” by the tribunal.

“The University condemns discrimination of any kind.

“We have robust policies, procedures, and processes in place to ensure our staff are treated fairly, equitably and with respect during our promotions process. 

"Our promotion criteria are both stretching and robust and are consistent with our longer-term strategic ambitions and global competitiveness."