Monday, 21 July 2008

The old girls' club

The knives are out.

A few years ago an acquaintance of mine relayed a rather interesting conversation with a partner in a Shortland Street law firm who was rather incredulous that the majority of the top graduates from law school were *gasp* women. My acquaintance wondered what the big deal, was but the partner of the law firm seemed to think it was the end of the legal establishment as we know it.

So now that there are far too many women graduating university, it was only a matter of time before the small number (both in number and financial value) of scholarships available to women were put on the chopping block by a male hand. Just for fun, I looked on the University of Auckland scholarships website and found a grand total of 8 scholarships specifically for women of which seven are the result of bequests, hardly a huge number.

Of course the scholarships themselves aren't usually the result of state-sponsorship but rather are the result of the private generosity of organisations or individuals that have decided that they want to financially encourage students to pursue certain fields of study or make it financially easier for certain members of society to study at university like Christians, Koreans and that the most oppressed member of academia, former Grammar Boys. I don't know about Christians, but there are plenty of Koreans and Grammar boys running around most university campuses these days but there isn't a huge outcry about scholarships available to these groups.

I only wish that rather than trying to destroy the few scholarships open to women, that the energy would go into looking at the reasons why boys aren't enrolling in tertiary education. Perhaps someone should set up a scholarship?


Julie said...

What always bugs me about this stuff is that the analysis rarely goes beyond the undergrad level. Academia is still predominantly a male profession in the higher echelons. Point in case, none of our universities has had a female VC yet. Progress at the bottom has been relatively fast, but progress at the top is still glacial.

Actually I'm a bit stunned that there is all this kerfuffle about it when then number of scholarships involved is so small. Thanks for doing that simple piece of research that seems to have eluded the journos.

Yes I'm grumpy today.

Anna McM said...

Remember after Don Brash's Orewa speech, scholarships were a focal point for a lot of anti-Maori rabbiting on? The debate showed that the general public doesn't know much about scholarships - as you say, heaps are private. And scholarships are only really valuable in a user-pays education system which particularly disadvantages women through the student loan scheme.

Universities (or at least the one I'm enrolled at) certainly remain blokey institutions, in terms of both senior staff numbers and culture.

Anna McM said...
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Violet said...

I know where the boys are - they've worked out that there's more money to be made in the trades.

Hugh said...

I've got to say that my experience of universities has not been one of blokeyness. Of the two Departments I studied in, both were headed by women; two out of the four courses I took in my honours year were taught by women, and among my fellow students there might have been more women than men.

That's not to say that Julie's point about VCs isn't a valid one, but I'd say that universities are not at the forefront of male-dominated institutions.

Anna McM said...

I'm working as a research assistant at the moment on a project looking at the status of women academics at a particular NZ university. (To be fair, this university does quite badly in the Academic Audit Unit's ranking of universities for woman-friendliness, so it might be a bit misrepresentative).

Women are still ending up in short term contracts more than men, and have difficulties being promoted, particularly beyond a certain level. Their research outputs are lower than men's, which appears to be because of work/life stuff. And there's a difference in the distribution of academic work between the sexes: women do more of coalface guidance of students, plus low status committee work, whereas men predominate in the more powerful committees/boards/etc.

Anonymous said...

There are more female law graduates than male law graduates these days.

However, there are very few female judges or partners in top firms.

I wonder if this will change as the current crop of graduates age.

There's no point in directing resources encouraging more women into law school. The disparity begins after women leave law school.

Anna McM said...

Agreed Anon - it's the 'leaky pipeline' that needs attention. My guess would be that cultures of non-family friendliness are the greatest contributors to attrition of women from academic and the judiciary.

Anonymous said...

I think firms desperate to retain staff will begin implementing more family friendly measures for their female employees (given they are recruiting now from a largely female potential workforce).

While the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is a woman, there are only 11 female QCs compared to 78 male QCs. Female lawyers are also paid less than male lawyers on average.

However, I am confident things will change for lawyers of my generation as we become more senior in the profession over time.

Lita said...

In the IT industry, I still earn less than my male counterparts, and at management level males outnumber females (in my experience, an average of 6 to 1).

Deborah said...

Point in case, none of our universities has had a female VC yet.

Actually, that's not the case. Massey's most recent VC was Judith Kinnear. However, she was the first female VC of a NZ university, and as yet there are no others.

Julie said...

Thanks Deborah, I love being wrong about that kind of thing! Still one woman on NZVCC in its entire history? Bit of a FAIL imho.

Also I meant to put "case in point" not the other way around.

Note to self: must engage brain before commenting ;-)