Jeanette Findlay became a Professor of Economics this year. Credit: University of Glasgow

University of Glasgow in employment tribunal over gender discrimination

By Kimberley Mannion

Economics Professor Jeanette Findlay claims she was discriminated against in the University’s promotion process because of her gender.

Head of the University of Glasgow’s Adam Smith Business School has admitted to an employment tribunal that a female academic was treated unfairly and overlooked for promotion. Jeanette Findlay, who became a Professor of Economics at the University of Glasgow in August of this year, raised an employment tribunal as she believes she was a victim of sex discrimination when she failed to become a professor after applying for the promotion in 2020.

The Business School Head, Professor John Finch, was at the time of the professorship application also Findlay’s line manager, and admitted to the tribunal that he had made a mistake in failing to include details of her leadership experience in his reference statement for her, which was to be read by the committee making the decision on the application. Finch told the tribunal that after Findlay raised concerns he later amended the reference.

During the application process, Findlay told the tribunal that she requested to have a subject-specific mentor to advise her on three occasions and instead was given a lawyer, accountant and a marketing specialist, while a male colleague also in the running was paired with a “world-class economist” by Finch. She also accused Finch of giving the male colleague “extra comments” where he did not meet the criteria.

When her application ultimately failed, Findlay stated that Finch suggested she move into learning and teaching. At the tribunal, she asked him: “Was it because that is what women do? Did you think, here she is, she fits more into [learning and teaching]?”

She told Finch, who admitted her treatment had been “unfair”: “I don’t think you know the damage this has done to me but I’m glad you told the truth.”

In addition, Findlay accused the University of Glasgow of trying to “humiliate and deter her” from going down the tribunal route by sharing her personal data without her consent. The University of Glasgow’s director of performance and reward, Lesley Cummings, rejected this claim, saying Findlay had agreed to let the University use her data to work on improvements for future promotion processes.

Professor Findlay also raised in the tribunal what she called “gender bias” in earning a professorship. Given that in order to achieve the rank of professor academics are expected to work additional hours, publish numerous pieces of work and travel for research papers, Findlay argues it is easier to achieve for men who are less likely to have caring responsibilities. When she challenged Finch on whether he agreed with this assessment during the tribunal, he replied “Potentially.”

University Principal Anton Muscatelli has also been cross examined by Findlay during the tribunal. On the issue of gender inequality in professorships he stated that the University’s target is for women to make up half of all senior roles by 2030 and noted that they had outperformed men over the last two years.

Professor Jonathon Michie OBE from the University of Oxford spoke at the tribunal on these issues and claimed that male academics are frequently offered “brilliant for CVs” research opportunities that will advance their careers. He went on to say that work which doesn’t lead to career progression is turned down “only by white men”.

The University of Glasgow’s branch of the University and College Union (UCU) wrote online in support of Findlay: “Excellent to see that Glasgow University is being held to account over their promotion criteria and its effect on women workers. Only 11% of professors in Economics being women is a damning statistic.”

The tribunal is expected to last until mid-September.


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Madlena Pavlova

I have being badly discriminate by Glasgow university as a student with learning disabilities and primary carer.
Without support no reasonable adjustment working on teaching in randomly allocated schools.
Have to go through same horrible experience as this professor.
Not easy but she managed to stand up .