A new book has warned women in Scottish Universities are being held back by an old boys network and claims leading institutions are "in denial" about the barriers which are preventing many from reaching the top.

The claims, based on interviews with female academics, including 12 based in the west of Scotland, confirm concerns revealed by the Herald in January about the shortage of women achieving senior roles in Scottish universities, including professorships.

Figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency showed that fewer than a quarter of professors are women, despite the fact they make up 44 per cent of the academic work force.

The new book An Investigation into Gender Imbalance in Academic Careers, by Dr Chris Bradshaw, of Leicester De Montfort University says the academic world is becoming more equitable, but "pockets of resistance" remain.

This takes the form of traditional male sexism, he claims, but also the expectations of academic advancement, including publishing and research which can see women with families losing ground on their male rivals.

Read more: Glass ceiling for female academics persisting at Scottish universities

Dr Bradshaw spoke to one female professor who described a bar culture, where men congregated and "actively undermined any women so that they never lasted."

Another female academic told him that she would not even try to apply for a promotion from her position of senior lecturer because higher education career structures discriminated against women with young families. "I can't work in the evenings and I can't go to international conferences, therefore I don't have a network, I can't write the papers and I can't get the book published," she said.

Another professor said: "A number of women have risen to the top and done great things for equality, but I think the university as a whole is still in denial about equality issues."

Read more: Glass ceiling for female academics persisting at Scottish universities

Dr Bradshaw said progress is being made in Scottish universities, but not fast enough and his book calls for government to intervene by demanding positive discrimination policies and annual monitoring of progress being made. The worst examples tend to be the oldest universities, he said.

Alastair Sim, director of Universities Scotland, said universities were close to achieving gender balance on University boards, and now wanted to see more progress in other areas of university life.

Shirley-Anne Somerville, the Scottish Higher Education Minister said: "We will continue to impress upon all our higher education institutions the need to do more."