Jennifer Platt (2000) 'Women in the British Sociological Labour Market, 1960-1995'
Sociological Research Online, vol. 4, no. 4, <http://www.socresonline.org.uk/4/4/platt.html>
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Received: 29/7/1999 Accepted: 18/10/1999 Published: 29/2/2000
'I was sitting out on the grass in the sun one day [after graduating] and [Head of Department] leaned out of a window and said "Mr 'Smith', what are you doing over the summer?", and I said "getting married"! So he said "Would you like to be a teaching assistant?"' [Man, started 1966] 'I had no intention of becoming an academic... I got a First, the best of my year... I got a telegram saying "...there are these jobs...", so I came back and registered as a graduate student; I had no overall plan, an opportunity presented itself...before I'd got very far with my PhD I was offered a job, originally a one-year assistant lectureship.' [Woman, started 1966]
'... the distribution of staff in the university shows that nearly 60% were recruited during the 60s and early 70s. Unless something is done to recognise the extraordinary circumstances affecting ... that cohort, many are going to be deprived of their just rewards... all universities are now entering a decade when the rate of retirement of academic staff which will largely determine the number of promotions to be made each year will be about one third the rate at which younger colleagues... approach the time when an appropriate proportion can be expected to satisfy the criteria for promotion. Moreover until members of the latter group themselves pass into retirement, their presence... will adversely affect the prospects of more junior staff.' (Wilson 1976: 5)
2 Other disciplines too within universities have under-represented women, so in that sense Sociology is not a special case; here, however, no attempt is made to explore the similarities and differences.
3 Some of those qualified and available, and actually employed in Britain, have foreign qualifications and may have been abroad until getting a British job. (Correspondingly, though not necessarily in the same numbers, people qualified in Britain might get jobs abroad.) The number of foreigners available depends on factors outside Britain, while those appointed depend on the British situation. Methodologically, these groups create the problem that they appear only in one side of the figures; since there is no solution to this problem, it is ignored.
4The work reported here is part of a larger project which will also have data on individual careers over time and on the motives and experiences which led to individual decisions, this wider range of factors will be dealt with in future publications.
5 The possibility of using advertisements was investigated, but it became evident that this was not practical.
6 The propensity to conduct such studies has varied over time, illustrating the varying concerns felt. One major source of data is studies done under the auspices of the British Sociological Association (BSA), expressing its concern - strong in the 1950s and early 1960s - about the perceived shortage of job opportunities for Sociology graduates. Another major source is the series of studies for the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) which, as the official body providing funding both for postgraduate support and for research in the social sciences, has had a continuing interest in the demand for postgraduates and the supply of well-qualified researchers.
7 This was a study of a large representative sample of university teachers, plus analysis of 1968-1971 vacancies and applications for them.
8 Rudd (1990: 208) also shows that for 1972-7 graduates more of the men with good degrees ended up with a PhD, though women who attempted one had the same success rate .
9Westoby et al.'s study, in 1972, was of 2,567 social-science graduates from 1950-1, 1961 and 1967. Kelsall et al. studied a sample of 10,000 from the whole range of 1960 graduates, followed up in 1966. Banks and Webb did a postal follow-up of 1966 Sociology graduates surveyed by Abbott and willing to be recontacted, and for 1970 graduates had a complete list from institutions and a good response rate to a postal questionnaire. Different parts of these data are used in Webb (1972) and (1973) and Banks and Webb 1977. Williamson, and Dolton and Makepeace, made postal surveys of 1970 and 1980 graduates, with reasonably representative samples of 9660 and 7141 respectively.
10 The 'nepotism' rules in some universities will have made it hard for women married to colleagues to work there too; this is less limiting in areas with more than one university, which may contribute to Rendel's finding (1980: 145) that women had better representation in London.
11 Similarly Court et al. (1996: 52), in a study of researchers in social science in 1995, found that the difficulty of combining work and family was still an issue, and women were more likely than men to follow a partner.
12 Joan Abbott's (1969) study of Sociology students (Employment of Sociology and Anthropology Graduates, 1966-7, mimeo, BSA), is referred to in the literature, but no copy of it has been located. The data quoted come from a summary of its main conclusions made for the BSA Executive, found in the papers deposited at the British Library of Political and Economic Science (BSA papers, Box A 4, folder 29).
13 Banks and Webb suggest that the strongly theoretical emphasis in many departments, and the hostility shown to individualistic social welfare concerns, may have discouraged women from identifying with the academic subject. They also divided Sociology graduates by the relative ranks they gave to working with people and with ideas in their ideal jobs. The fairly large minority working as lecturers much more often ranked 'working with ideas' higher, while those in social work, schoolteaching or industrial jobs ranked 'working with people' higher (1977: 28), which is suggestive about motives.
14 Fielding and Glover (1999: 355-9) similarly found that among graduates in science, engineering and technology the commonest occupation for men was management, while for women it was schoolteaching; this remained so over time and applied to women with or without children, although stronger for those with children. Women in professional scientific employment tended to leave the labour market in their late 20s, the typical age for childbearing.
15 One cannot tell how far such preferences were simply preferences, as opposed to anticipatory adjustment to a labour market more likely to provide such opportunities for women in couples giving priority to the husband's career. However, women interested in a university career might have it in social work or related fields, where they have been heavily represented, rather than in Sociology, and those posts tend to be reached by a longer and more indirect route. (Jones 1964: 46-9, Kaim-Caudle et al. 1980: 54-5, 58-60)
16 At the period of the Report, only 25% of all graduates in 1955-58 got a 1st or 2.1; the projections made assumed that this proportion would be maintained.
17 This measure was suggested by Kim et al 1999.
18 LSE was then in effect the only supplier of Sociology graduates. By 1944, its prewar sex ratio of c.70% men, 30% women, had almost been reversed, with 224 men and 494 women, though by 1951-2 it was more like 80% men (Dahrendorf 1995: 144-5, 371). That reflected the return of men from war work, and the provision of special grants to enable ex-servicemen to attend university; the ex-service numbers peaked in 1949-50 (Stewart 1989: 48), and provided the cohort who were established enough for senior posts when new departments were created.
19 Elias et al. (1997: 52), surveying institutional personnel departments, found, however, that in the mid -'90s the rising number of higher graduates had led to an average of 25 applicants per appointee for junior posts in Sociology.
20 Blackstone and Fulton (1975: 265-8), though, found that women at that time were less likely to have gained promotion than men of equivalent qualifications. There are of course many factors besides longevity which may be looked at for explanation of promotions. One is suggested by Williams et al. (1974: 399), who found that the women in their sample scored higher on job satisfaction, tending '...to be satisfied with simple membership of the high status profession, ...and... more willing to forgo high rewards in terms of salaries or the top jobs'..
21 Some found jobs, and now occupy senior positions, in Women's Studies rather than Sociology; this could be seen as a group successfully creating a new market for their services.
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