Sexism Storm Surrounds Royal Holloway Principal

Exclusive: Abbie Cheeseman reports on comments Professor Layzell made when discussing Royal Holloway's gender pay gap, which is the seventh worst in the country. Additional reporting by Emma Halahan and Michele Theil.

Royal Holloway Principal, Professor Layzell has claimed the university has a “transparent and fair pay system” despite having the seventh worst gender pay gap in the country at professorial level.

Speaking at his last Staff Open Meeting in November, he claimed the problem was instead rooted in the fact there are not enough women going for promotion.

In a recording of the meeting obtained by Orbital Magazine, the Principal claimed that “there are certain protected groups where there is a natural tendency to not have a go and put themselves in for promotion – sometimes that’s gender, sometimes it’s the BAME group”.

The Principal is facing backlash from his “natural tendency” comments, with one member of staff in the Geography Department telling Orbital that it was “an example of everyday sexism”.

Professor Layzell, who has recently been appointed the Deputy-Lieutenant for Surrey, also hinted that women were better suited to teaching than research.

Layzell commented on the strategy that some academics are using a teaching route into a professorship, which is normally research-led. He said this would “play to things they’re good at” leading many academics that we have spoken to accuse Layzell of believing women are more suited to teaching than research.

Douglas Cowie, a lecturer in the English Department commented: “The women who work in this department, I assume the women who work in every department, are fundamentally as good at researching and teaching as anyone else.

“The idea that there are fundamental differences in men and women’s intellectual abilities is a nonsense argument to be having in 2018.”

As previously reported by Orbital Magazine, Times Higher Education (THE) found that Royal Holloway has a 10.01% gender pay gap at professorial level. The UK average gender pay gap for full-time professors is 5.70%, highlighting the fact that Royal Holloway is almost double the national average.

In 2015/16 the pay gap at professorial level was 8.1%, in 2016/17 it was 10.01% – Layzell insisted at the Open Staff Meeting, however, that whilst there is still work to be done “we are going in the right direction”.

“Equal pay for work of equal value” said Layzell, re-emphasising his view that the gender pay gap at Royal Holloway is not a problem with the system.

Layzell also claims that part of the problem is within the way that gender pay gaps are calculated. At Royal Holloway, there are five categories of performance, or bands, within the professoriate. This banding system was introduced, on the back of a 2010 employment tribunal over equal pay, involving Royal Holloway Drama and Theatre Professor, Liz Schafer, in an attempt to create a more transparent pay scale.

All national gender pay gap figures use the averages for men and women from the entire professoriate to calculate the figure. Layzell, however, chooses to look at the gap within each individual band. As he rightly pointed out in the meeting, “within a band the pay gap is relatively small”. He went on to discuss how the overall gender pay gap figure of 10.01% is “distorted” by the fact that there are not enough women in the highest professorial bands.

Layzell puts this disparity in gender across the professorial bands down to confidence. The Enabling Women Academics through the Promotion Process programme has been put on to give women “the confidence to go in for promotion”.

Clare Bradley, a former equalities officer and member of the University and College Union (UCU) local association committee at Royal Holloway, whose question at the Open Meeting initiated discussion of  this issue, suggested that data from these workshops were being misrepresented.

Bradley pointed to figures in which the College suggested that there were 24% women in the professoriate when the Enabling Women workshops started. She claims instead, that when the workshops began, 30% of the professoriate were women.

She said, “Since the workshops began there has been a reduction in the percentage of women in the professoriate not the increase that was claimed. Women may be encouraged to apply for chairs but are they getting them at Royal Holloway? Many are having to go elsewhere to get their promotions and some are doing that.”

A spokesperson for Royal Holloway, University of London said: “the programme has gained momentum, with women from each cohort progressing through the professorial promotions bands. Three years into the programme in 2016 the percentage of women in band five, the most senior grade for a professor, had increased from 5.6% to 19%.”

Further conversation with academics around campus, however, confirmed an atmosphere in which women are not going for promotion because they believe it is unlikely that the panel will allow them to advance.

Orbital Magazine can confirm that Royal Holloway UCU will call for more transparency in pay from the college.

Jeff Frank, the equalities officer for the UCU’s Royal Holloway branch, is going to put forward a proposal on behalf of UCU for more pay transparency to the Equality and Diversity Steering Group in hope that the Senior Management Team will look into the issue in more depth.

In conversation with Royal Holloway UCU, they told Orbital Magazine that “we already know who is a lecturer, senior lecturer, reader or professor and yet there are 5 bands within the professoriate – we want to know who is in each band and perhaps the actual salary”.

They believe that this will be a good move to equality and would “encourage women professors to put forward for advancement if they knew how much their male counterparts were being paid”.

Clare Bradley said: “If the argument is, as the Principal maintains, that women aren’t putting themselves forward – well, there’s nothing quite like finding out that someone you regard as no more competent than yourself is getting paid a great deal more than you, to encourage you to apply for advancement.”

UCU anticipates that their proposed transparency in pay strategy will help to pave the way towards more equality within the college.

A spokesperson from Royal Holloway commented, “As one of the first colleges to provide higher education for women, Royal Holloway, University of London, is committed to championing equality and diversity for students and staff.

“Our approach to pay and promotion is both fair and transparent however, we recognise that there is more that we, and the sector, can do to tackle the causes of inequality. In response, for some years now, Royal Holloway has been making changes to processes and procedures to minimize barriers to promotion”

The College refuted that Professor Layzell made sexist comments during the meeting.