Academic Women Now: Experiences of mid-career academic women in Scotland


A new drive to inspire women to strive for the top jobs in higher education is showcasing the careers of successful female academics.

Women in Academia Now, hopes to tackle the still low numbers of senior women in universities, despite growing recognition in the corporate world that the talents and expertise of women bring enormous benefits.

Campaigning to encourage women into academia has traditionally focused on the fields of science, technology and medicine. But even in disciplines with more women overall, most of those women are early or mid-career: few are reaching the most senior levels of academic recognition.

The new booklet has been published detailing the careers of female members of the Young Academy of Scotland, which recognises emerging leaders in science and the humanities, revealing their routes to success by discipline, personal circumstances and opportunities.

The new initiative reveals that fellowships are very beneficial to careers and that overseas appointments may be key to success. From the sample of careers highlighted only 10 of the 33 women made their careers entirely in Britain. The rest include 14 migrants (predominantly from the EU and North America), and 7 Britons who have spent some time abroad.

A key statistic is that half of those in the sciences held long-term (5+ years) personal fellowships, such as a Royal Society University Research Fellowship or an RCUK fellowship, early in their careers indicating these fellowships are crucial in enabling those women to gain permanent positions, establish their research teams and, in some cases, start their families.

It is also suggested that a lack of fellowships in humanities may be a barrier to women in this area.

Dr Aileen Fyfe, of the School of History at the University of St Andrews and member of the Young Academy of Scotland, who is part of the team behind the new project, said: “The female academic members of the Young Academy of Scotland provide a fantastic window onto the career paths of current mid-career women in academia, a career-stage that is often overlooked amidst advice to early-career women and celebrations of senior women as role models. These women show us what academia looks like for women now.”

The brochure aims to facilitate and inspire further discussion and study about the career progression of women in different disciplines across the entire range of academic disciplines. By focusing on the mid-career stage, it offers a set of role models for early career researchers, many of whom still harbour doubts about whether academia is a good career for women.


The booklet “Academic Women Now: experiences of mid-career academic women in Scotland” will be launched by Dame Jocelyn Bell-Burnell (president, Royal Society of Edinburgh) on Thursday 9 June, 11am-1pm, at the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Other speakers will be Alice Brown CBE (chair, Scottish Funding Council) and Lesley Yellowlees CBE (vice-principal, University of Edinburgh).

Press are welcome to attend at 11am.

The booklet will be available at the launch.  A pdf of the publication is available here.