Celebrating Women and Gender Equality

March is off to an incredible start for the celebration of women worldwide. On the 1st of the month, we had the commencement of Women’s History Month, closely followed by International Women’s Day on March 8th.

Gender inequality has put a red mark on higher education for a long time. The ‘Edinburgh Seven’ were the first group of women to fully matriculate as undergraduate students at any British university. That was back in 1869! These inspiring women studied medicine right here at The University of Edinburgh. That’s pretty amazing! Although their struggles continued the Edinburgh Seven shot the rights of women’s access to higher education to the forefront of the equality agenda.

Our very own Dr Michelle Luciano has pioneered gender diversity helping the Department of Psychology achieve our first Athena Swan award back in 2013. In October 2017 this award was expanded to incorporate the entire School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences. Well done us.

While we celebrate women worldwide and their achievements so far, we can’t let ourselves slip in the press for progress. You might have heard of the Paula Principle but if not, allow me to introduce you. This interesting book by Tom Schuller talks openly about the most common reasons women don’t get the same job opportunities as men. He came up with 5 principles:

     1. Discrimination

Although gender discrimination has taken a downfall (albeit slow) over the last few decades, it still surrounds women in the workplace. With campaigns like #MeToo bringing sexism to the forefront of world media, it might feel easier now than ever to call out that guy in the office who insists on using pet names like “sweetheart”, or patronisingly refers to you as that “nice young lady”. Don’t be fooled, while overt discrimination is tumbling there is still plenty covert goings-on.

     2. Structural reasons

Traditionally, women are seen as the carers. Carers of children, their parents, their spouse, their pets. We live in a pretty modern and changeable universe so this is slowly reaching balance with more dads opting to stay at home. Still, many employers still discriminate against women who may break from the workplace for maternity leave and other family commitments.

     3. Psychology

As women, we often refrain from applying for jobs if we feel less than confident about just one aspect of the job spec. Men, on the other hand, will apply even if they lack the basic requirements. So next time let’s just take a leap of faith and sell yourself.

     4. Vertical network

Women lack a ‘vertical network’. Men often have more friends in high places than women, leaving us cut-off from useful contacts. Recently in Edinburgh, we hosted an entirely women-lead “Women in Tech” conference. Let’s hope 2018 continues to see female notaries taking precedence on the company stage.

     5. Positive choices

Interestingly women seem to make a ‘positive choice’ not to rise vertically in their careers. Women are less likely to seek jobs which impact on life satisfaction. How much is this actually a choice? That’s up for debate.


If you’re interested in this you can buy the book here. It’s sure to be a fascinating read. For now, though, let us all keep mindful of the equality gaps across the sectors.