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The Italian University Habilitation and the Challenge of Increasing the Representation of Women in Academia


  • Marco Pautasso

    () (Forest Pathology and Dendrology, Institute of Integrative Biology, ETH Zurich 8092, Switzerland
    Animal and Plant Health Unit, European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), Parma 43126, Italy)


Increasing the representation of women in academia is a priority challenge in higher education policy. This study uses data from the Italian University habilitation competition in 2012 to test whether this national, standardized and quantitative assessment of researchers contributed to improving the situation. The proportion of female applications (on the whole about 36%) was in many fields higher than the reported proportion of female University professors (27%, 2010), but lower than the proportion of female researchers (2010) in Italy (45% and 51% for researchers with and without a permanent position, respectively). There was still a gap between the proportion of female applications at the associate (on average 39%) and full professor level (29%). A similar gap was also present between scientific disciplines and the humanities. Average success rates of female applications (41.2%) were on the whole lower than those of male applications (43.9%), but in most fields these differences were not significant. Overall, it is generally much lower proportion of female applications rather than their lower success rate that perpetuates the low proportion of female academics in Italy. More effort is needed to support female researchers in choosing and pursuing an academic career.

Suggested Citation

  • Marco Pautasso, 2015. "The Italian University Habilitation and the Challenge of Increasing the Representation of Women in Academia," Challenges, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 6(1), pages 1-16, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jchals:v:6:y:2015:i:1:p:26-41:d:46636

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Francesco Lissoni & Jacques Mairesse & Fabio Montobbio & Michele Pezzoni, 2011. "Scientific productivity and academic promotion: a study on French and Italian physicists," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 20(1), pages 253-294, February.
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    6. Maria De Paola & Vincenzo Scoppa, 2011. "Gender Discrimination and Evaluators’ Gender: Evidence from the Italian Academy," Working Papers 201106, Università della Calabria, Dipartimento di Economia, Statistica e Finanza "Giovanni Anania" - DESF.
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    Cited by:

    1. Zacchia, Giulia, 2016. "Segregation or homologation? Gender differences in recent Italian economic thought," MPRA Paper 72279, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Giovanni Abramo & Ciriaco D’Angelo, 2015. "An assessment of the first “scientific habilitation” for university appointments in Italy," Economia Politica: Journal of Analytical and Institutional Economics, Springer;Fondazione Edison, vol. 32(3), pages 329-357, December.
    3. Marzolla, Moreno, 2016. "Assessing evaluation procedures for individual researchers: The case of the Italian National Scientific Qualification," Journal of Informetrics, Elsevier, vol. 10(2), pages 408-438.

    More about this item


    academic researchers; career progress; equal opportunities; gender equality; higher education; Italy; research policy; tenure; Universities; women in science;

    JEL classification:

    • A00 - General Economics and Teaching - - General - - - General
    • C00 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - General - - - General
    • Z00 - Other Special Topics - - General - - - General


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