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The Glass Escalator in Research Administration

Do Flexible-Working Policies Adversely Discriminate Against Women? Research being carried out by Kent's Eastern ARC Officer, intends to find out.

08 May 2018

As a profession, Research Administration (RA) is heavily dependent upon its Female workforce. Internationally, 77% of all RA staff are women and there is surprisingly little variation in this across the developed world. When it comes to Leadership positions, however, this gender imbalance becomes less pronounced, with 28% of leadership roles occupied by men, despite their only making up 22% of the overall workforce.

Such patterns are not unique to Research Administration. In nursing, teaching and other traditionally “female” professions, men consistently reach leadership positions both more quickly and in greater numbers than their female counterparts. One reason for this is that women are more likely to be in part-time positions than men, usually due to their having caring responsibilities. In turn, this limits their opportunities for personal and professional development that can lead to career advancement. As a phenomenon this is known as the “glass escalator”. Within Research Administration, a disproportionate (86%) number of all part-time roles are filled by women. Given the higher number of men in leadership positions than within the overall workforce, this suggests that the “glass escalator” is also having an effect within Research Administration.

As a relatively new and continuously evolving profession, there is an opportunity to create novel approaches to workforce development that can prevent this imbalance from becoming an intractable feature of the Research Administration landscape.

This research therefore sets out to capture more data on peoples’ experiences of part time working in order to engage in an informed debate within the Profession about whether part time working is implicated in gender imbalances amongst the Profession’s leadership.

To capture some baseline data, a short on-line survey has been developed.  The Survey has received full ethical approval from the University of Kent.  All responses will be anonymised and data will be held on Qualtrics’ secure servers.  Once the data has been analysed it will be presented to the international research community at a workshop the Researchers are delivering at the International Network of Research Management (INORMS) conference in June 2018 INORMS2018.

To take the survey and contribute to this important research, please click

Experiences of Part Time Working in Research Administration

If you have any questions please get in touch with Sarah Tetley, Eastern ARC Officer, University of Kent