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Maternity Whitepaper: can you help?


Written by Dr Emma Waltham | Parental Returners Expert


There is a persistent glass ceiling for women working in higher education, particularly female academics, who are still less likely to take on professorships than male colleagues. We are partnering with Advance HE and UHR to produce a Whitepaper to investigate the impact of motherhood on women’s careers in the higher education sector.


While the reasons for this are complex, recent research by the Office for National Statistics has identified that women take on higher level positions at a much lower rate once they become parents.


We are partnering with Advance HE and UHR to produce a Whitepaper to investigate the impact of motherhood on women’s careers in the higher education sector. The Whitepaper will share the best practice approaches in the sector that are helping remove barriers to the progression of women with caring responsibilities.


Why this research is needed

In 2022, the UK’s gender pay gap rose to 13.8% in 2022, with motherhood identified by ONS as currently being the most significant driver of pay disparity. Research by the Government Equalities Office has also identified that working mums in the public sector are half as likely as working dads to be promoted.


We see the impact when we look at the numbers of women in professor-level roles. While women make up 45% of the HE workforce, only 28% of professors are female.

Women find it much more difficult to continue academic career progression in mid-life, due to the pressures of balancing maternity leaves and caring responsibilities with attending conferences, applying for grants and supervising research students, while maintaining their teaching commitments.


Can you help?

We are currently gathering data to both better understand the situation for parents with caring responsibilities in higher education and to be able to disseminate good practice.


We want to hear about:

  • Best practice in creating inclusive working cultures for people with caring responsibilities

  • Success stories – what are institutions doing well?

  • Areas in the sector where progress has been made

  • Key challenges faced by universities in removing barriers to participation of expectant and working parents

  • Areas where institutions need more support in creating workplaces where parental carers are able to participate to their full potential and continue their career progression.


The survey should take no longer than 15 minutes to complete, and the link to the survey is: https://forms.gle/wV9Ba4SNyA4nzUpd9


Whitepaper, webinar and next steps

We plan to publish the Whitepaper later in 2023 and to hold an event where we will share the findings and explore next steps for the sector.


Thank you for your support.

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