MALE professors overwhelmingly dominate senior academic roles at Scottish universities with only two institutions achieving gender balance, new figures show.

In two-thirds of universities less than a quarter of top academic staff are women and some institutions have no female professors at all.

The figures are particularly low for Ancient universities and those which offer more science and engineering courses where there is a historic under-recruitment of women.

Read more: Fight for equality led by over-worked, under-recognised women

The figures come amidst growing concerns over the gender pay gap across the UK with 78% of companies paying men more than women. Just 13% of firms pay women more.

Last month, the annual conference of the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) heard how sexism is rife amongst some staff with a flagship project to boost the profile of women in science and technology dubbed the "tampon and sanitary towel" committee.

The situation has been blamed on a number of factors including entrenched attitudes of gender stereotyping.

Concerns also centre of a culture of long working hours, inflexible terms and conditions and pressures on researchers to produce academic papers which can be incompatible with family responsibilities.

Read more: 'As you move up the ladder meetings are increasingly male dominated'

Mary Senior, Scotland official for the UCU, said women were more likely to work part-time, but universities offered few part-time professorships.

She said: "These statistics show that women face a particularly acute problem with accessing professorial roles.

"There appears to be few opportunities for part-time professorial positions and the over-representation of women on teaching only contracts at mid-career levels represents yet another barrier to correcting this stark gender imbalance.

"Some of the old assumptions and stereotyping around particular disciplines and types of institution does not help, and it is interesting to see the newer universities making the best progress."

Ms Senior called on universities to "urgently work" to improve the figures adding: "Our universities are not only missing out on the talents of around half of the population, but they may also be discriminating against them too."

Shirley-Anne Somerville, the Minister for Higher Education, called on institutions to improve the rate of progress.

She said: "Equality for women is at the heart of our vision for a fairer Scotland and it is important that our universities reflect the wider diversity within Scotland’s society and the student population that they serve.

"That is why we will continue to impress upon all our higher education institutions the need to do more on this, and other, gender equality issues."

Shuwanna Aaron, NUS Scotland Women’s Officer, said the figures showed a near-consistent underrepresentation of women in senior academic positions across universities.

She said: "Women account for more than half of the population, yet some institutions have no women professors at all. It beggars belief.

“While the performance of some institutions and subjects may be unsurprising, it cannot be excused. Our universities should be at the forefront of reform in society, leading the charge against the ingrained sexism, and setting the example for future generations."

Read more: 'As you move up the ladder meetings are increasingly male dominated

A spokeswoman for Universities Scotland, which represent principals, said the sector recognised work needed to done to have gender-balanced institutions.

She said: "Already much work has already been undertaken that has improved the make-up of the workforce with a 6% increase in the number of female professors over the last nine years. There is further work which will require time to come to fruition.

“All our members participate in the Aurora programme, which seeks to address the under-representation of women in leadership positions in the sector.

"Many of our universities have specific actions within their gender action plans to remove barriers that may have previously prevented promotion for women."

The new figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show the two universities in Scotland which have achieved gender parity are Robert Gordon, in Aberdeen, and Queen Margaret, in Edinburgh.

Read more: Fight for equality led by over-worked, under-recognised women

The third best is Glasgow Caledonian University where 36% of professors were female in 2016/17 followed by Edinburgh Napier and Stirling, where 33% of professors are female.

At the universities of Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Glasgow and Dundee female professors make up fewer than a quarter of the total while at

Heriot-Watt, St Andrews, Strathclyde and Abertay Dundee it is lower than one in five.

Ferdinand von Prondzinski, principal of Robert Gordon University, welcomed the equal split between professorships at the institution.

He said: "We are very fortunate to have a large number of dedicated female staff at all levels across the university, whose leadership, collegiality and creativity has been crucial to the development and success of the university."

A spokeswoman for Queen Margaret University said: "We are able to ensure gender equality by having a number of strong female role models within the professoriate to inspire and motivate other female academic staff, as well as fair and transparent promotions criteria for promotion."

Overall, just 23.7% of professors at Scottish universities are women, despite the fact they make up 44 per cent of the academic workforce.

The figure is just over four percentage points better than the situation in 2010/11 when 18.3 per cent of professors were female, but in the UK as a whole a quarter of professors are women.

The Scottish Funding Council (SFC) has already urged universities to increase gender equality on campus.

In 2015, universities pledged to have a minimum 40 per cent female representation on their governing bodies after claims of a glass ceiling preventing women taking the top jobs.