Academic Women at the University of Zimbabwe: Career Prospects, Aspirations and Family Role Constraints.
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At independence in 1980 the University of Zimbabwe faced two major problems with regard to the composition of academic staff: a racial imbalance and a gender imbalance. A strong staff development programme was initiated which by 1987 had considerably improved the racial balance. The gender imbalance, however remained a problem. Women represent 21% of the academic staff, an increase of only 4% over the past ten years. They continue to be concentrated in the middle and lower academic ranks in all faculties and even with doctoral degrees are less likely than men to be promoted to the higher academic ranks of senior lecturer, associate professor and professor. Their participation in University governance is low with important decision making committees composed largely of male academics. Consequently, the Ford Foundation gave a grant to the Human Resources Research Centre for a study to be undertaken which would investigate the problem of the under-representation and status of academic women at the University of Zimbabwe. This paper is based on one aspect of the project which was a survey of current members of the academic staff conducted in July- August 1988 using a mailed questionnaire. The purpose of the survey was to investigate factors affecting academic career prospects for women. The questionnaire included items which would elicit data on gender differences with regard to academic rank, academic qualifications, productivity, involvement in University governance, attitudes towards an academic career, attitudes towards women in academic careers, and the extent to which home and family responsibilities affect academic careers. The questionnaire was pre-tested on a small pilot sample in June and revised.