Only 2% of University Professors are BAME females! How do we change the game?

We caught up with Amrita Dhillon,  Professor of Economics at the Kings University London  to find out about her experience to becoming a professor and hear how we can get more women into the profession  

HESA research found that not only are only 2% of professors BAME females, but females account for only 1 in 5 of all professors.

How did you manage to break the odds and become a professor?

I started a PhD in Economics in 1990, as soon as I finished I applied and was successful in gaining an ‘Assistant Professor’ role at Warwick University where I worked for nearly ten years. I then spent a bit of time working in New York and then came back to Warwick University as a ‘Reader’ for three years. A lot of people get stuck between the transitioning from Reader to Professor as it requires very high levels of publications, I applied the first time and was unsuccessful, eventually I applied again and was offered the role Professor of Economics.

I think part of the reason I was able to break the odds was I was determined to do my PhD at a reputable university as that opens up so many networks and opportunities.  I had a Supervisor during my PhD who was supportive and offered great advice to help me make my work better and finally  after my PhD I had a mentor who was committed to investing in my personal and professional development.

What are some of the barriers women face in entering the profession?

I am a woman in a very male dominated sector, the culture is very masculine, at times you can feel like your opinions are not appreciated or valued so there is a temptation to imitate other people’s thoughts to prove yourself which never works. I learnt to say what I really think and know my opinion is just as valid.

What advice would you give to any female reading this who wants to become a professor 

It’s competitive to become a Professor, my male counterparts always talk about their accomplishments which makes a massive difference to how people ‘perceive them’. As women we tend to not be as boastful in our accomplishments but we need to be, let our colleagues know that we just published  a particular article or spoke at a conference.

Men are constantly applying for that next promotion but as women unless we feel we fulfil 100% of the job description we wont apply, we need to take risks and put ourselves out there more.

Look confident even if you’re not feeling it.

Every 5 years make a plan and review it to help you to achieve your goal.

Find a mentor who can support you in your professional development.

How do you think we can bring wider change?

We need women’s networks where we can network at a peer level and support women who are entering the profession. We need to  share our experiences and discuss ways we can bring wider change for example the gender pay gap between professors is a big issue.

Furthermore we need scholarships specifically for ethnic minority women to help widen participation.

What do you know now that you wish you had known at the start of your career?  

Specialise in one area, focus is important you need to become known for a particular area, otherwise every time you change focus you need to start from the beginning in building your credibility

Publish, publish publish! Right from the beginning of your career invest in publishing as this will help build your credibility and boost your promotion prospects.


Amrita Dhillon is a professor of Economics at Kings University in London. She has kindly offered a 1-2-1 mentoring session for any female who would like guidance in becoming a professor and/or leadership advice. To be in with a chance of winning simply subscribe to our blog. Competition closes 30th June . 


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