Our thanks to Mike P and others for this piece by Camilla Turner, Education Editor, in yesterday’s Telegraph. Emphases ours:
Oxford has ended its women-only fellowship after the university’s administrators said it breached equality law.
The Joanna Randall-MacIver junior research fellowship, established in the 1930s for women studying fine arts, music or literature, was deemed to be “discriminatory on the grounds of gender” by Oxford’s Council.
This is the first time that the university has opened up a historically female-only fellowship to male applicants, and the move has prompted a backlash from previous recipients.
The decision means that other research fellowships could be under threat, including those run by Cambridge’s female-only college Newnham. The College say that its women-only appointments comply with the Equality Act.
Professor Elizabeth Cullingford, a Randall-MacIver fellow in the 1970s who is now chair of English at Texas University, said: “I feel pretty strongly that having one or two things that are special to woman aren’t going to threaten any great power structure at Oxford.
“The history there is totally male – for years women couldn’t even be in the university and couldn’t be fellow of a college.”
She said that women do still have some “catching up” to do with men, adding: “We may have parity in numbers but do we have parity on power? I doubt that. I am the first female chair of the English department and Texas University has been around since the 19th century.”
The fellowship is funded by the estate of British-born archaeologist and Oxford graduate David Randall-MacIver, who set it up in his wife Joanna’s name after her death in 1932 and stipulated that it should only be awarded to female academics.
Former recipients include Jennifer Mundy, The Tate’s head of Art Historical Research, and Georgina Herrmann OBE, an eminent archaeologist and the first woman to discover the Afghanistan’s Lapis Lazuli mines in the 1960s. [J4MB: Nonsense on stilts. The first “women” to discover the Lapis Lazuli mines there? Mines from which the mineral has been extracted (by men, we can be sure) for 6,000+ years? She was not even the first “person” to rediscover them in the modern era. The last line in this article is, “Georgina Herrmann OBE: eminent archaeologist and the first woman to reach Afghanistan’s Lapis Lazuli mines in the 1960s (1966-68).” How is “reaching” the same as “discovering”? Or is every place reached by a woman for the first time, “discovered” by them? By this warped logic, women have “discovered” EVERYWHERE. Move over Columbus, Magellan, Captain Cook, Vasco da Gama… ]
Alexandra Wilson, a professor of music and cultural history at Oxford Brookes, said that her Randall-MacIver fellowship in 2004 transformed her career in academia.
“These posts are like gold dust, they are highly competitive. When I was applying it was very common to find music departments that were entirely male. Things have improved, but possibly not to full equality,” she told The Daily Telegraph.
“I do think it’s a rather regrettable consequence of a well-intended law that this opportunity [J4MB: Privilege, in truth] for women should be removed.”
Another former recipient, now in her 80s, said: “I would like to see it continuing as women only because I think it is sometimes quite tough for women – less tough than it used to be, but it’s nice to have one or two things that are women only.
“On the other hand I am not sure it has swung rather far the other way. I don’t really like positive discrimination, I think that’s insulting. We can stand on our own feet and fight our corner.”
Under the Employment Equality Act 2010, employers are not permitted to advertise or recruit to posts open to one gender only.
There are exceptions to this which allow for “positive action” to be taken in favour of a particular group if they are underrepresented in the relevant field of work.
Catherine Casserley, a barrister at Cloisters Chambers and one of the country’s leading experts in discrimination law, said that any institutions which have women-only fellowships will now have to reconsider.
She said: “What universities are going to have to do is look at their scholarships and fellowships see whether legally, in light of the Equality Act, they can offer them to only one gender and see whether exceptions or positive action provisions applies.”
A spokesman for Oxford University said: “As a consequence of the [Employment Equality] Act, Oxford University has changed the terms of a number of historically-created trusts so they are no longer gender-specific. The Randall-MacIver Fellowship is the most recent example.
“The University is very much aware of the lack of women in academic roles at many levels and is working to end the imbalance as a priority.
“Several initiatives to promote equality, including strengthened recruitment processes [J4MB: Hmm, now in what sense might they be “strengthened?”] and professional development programmes for female academics, [J4MB: Only female academics need these programmes, because…?] are now well-established and beginning to show an impact at all levels, including professorial posts.”
Additional reporting: Christina Ramsay, Jem Bartholomew, Greg Ritchie
Previous Joanna Randall-MacIver fellows
Dr Xiaofan Amy Li, lecturer in comparative literature at Kent University (2013-14)
Dr Julie Taylor, senior lecturer in American Studies at Northumbria University (2010-12)
Professor Alexandra Wilson, specialist in music and cultural history at Oxford Brookes University (2004-5)
Professor Maria Loh, art history expert at City University of New York (2003-4)
Professor Elizabeth Cullingford, chair of English at Texas University (1971-73)
Georgina Herrmann OBE: eminent archaeologist and the first woman to reach Afghanistan’s Lapis Lazuli mines in the 1960s (1966-68)
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