Home | Top Stories | 90 per cent of female academics experience sexism
Griffith University Institute for Educational Research director Leonie Rowan said the survey's findings were stark. Picture: Supplied

90 per cent of female academics experience sexism

Female and non-binary academics are experiencing sexism at alarming rates, according to a recent survey, with staff reporting their male colleagues are interrupting them in meetings, speaking to them rudely, and downplaying their accomplishments.

A survey by Griffith University found one in two women have directly experienced sexual harassment from a senior co-worker at an Australian tertiary institution, while 90 per cent of academics have been subject to sexism.

A total of 420 female and non-binary Australian academics contributed to the survey.

The university’s Institute for Educational Research director Leonie Rowan said the figures on everyday forms of sexism were also stark, after 86 per cent of respondents reported they experienced disrespect daily.

“Fifty-six per cent of respondents report being reprimanded and spoken rudely to by a male colleague, 92 per cent feel ignored … and 81 per cent endure the humiliation of being ‘put in their place’,” she said.

"Seventy-four per cent report negative impact on careers [and] 67 per cent say it has impacted a promotion or has had negative financial consequences.

“There were such high numbers of people who were just having these as everyday experiences … which are all precursors to worse behaviours.”

One respondent said the discrimination they faced was impossible to ignore, describing it as “death by a thousand cuts”.

“’They don’t want to sleep with you and you are not going to cook for them. So they ignore you,” another respondent added.

Professor Rowan said sexism can damage women’s careers by impacting the opportunities they’re given and how safe they feel in the workplace.

“It could shape whether or not [a staff member] wants to stay in academic environments,” she said.

Meanwhile, Professor Rowan said the health impacts were also concerning with 71 per cent reporting sexism affected their self-esteem, while 68 per cent have experienced poor mental health.

The survey comes after the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) found incidents of sexual harassment at Australian Universities have increased in the past five years by almost 53 per cent, with one in three staff reporting they’ve experienced an incident.

NTEU president Alison Barnes said it was “hard to fathom” how widespread sexual harassment and sexism was across Australian universities.

“University bosses have failed to address this despite a mountain of evidence showing staff are being sexually harassed and discriminated against at appalling levels,” she said.

“The brutal combination of broken complaints processes and two-thirds of staff being in insecure jobs is fuelling harassment and sexism in universities."

The Action Plan addressing gender based violence in higher education was finalised last week, outlining what needs to be done to solve rife sexual misconduct in universities.

Professor Rowan hopes the results of the survey would further encourage universities to improve the workplace to make it more inviting and safe for female and non-binary staff.

“We really hope [these statistics] will make people feel comfortable to open up conversations and share stories of experiences they had,” she said.

“We want women to feel heard, want non-binary academics to feel heard, and want their voices to not be the end of the conversation.”

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One comment

  1. I was the most senior (full Professor) female academic on our faculty board, the Dean (male) was chairing a meeting getting ideas to resolve the latest issue we were facing. He did start by asking me (I was sitting directly to his right). I gave my response – he replied “Do you really think so?” – and moved on. We went around the table arriving at the last person – a male academic. He shared his idea with the Dean to which the Dean replied “I think you might be right!” The male academic responded – “I think I am – it is what Rhonda said 5 minutes ago”. Unfortunately reflects many of my experiences as female in academe for more than 30 years.

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