Women at the University of Ljubljana – 100 years

The University of Ljubljana this year celebrates its centenary. Many events and activities were organized to review the compelling scientific tradition that has been, and still is, cultivated at the University. On this occasion, many researchers from different scientific fields emphasised that, unfortunately women, were left on the margins of academic institutions. At the beginning of the twentieth century, however, this began to change. On its centenary, UL remembered the first women to overcome social and political obstacles to assure their place in academia, paving a way for all other women in science. One of these women was Anka Mayer Kansky, who was the first person to defend a doctorate at the newly founded University of Ljubljana in 1920, and also was the first woman to take an academic job at the University in Slovenia. Another woman was, Fanny Susan Copeland from Ireland, who was the first woman to teach at the University of Ljubljana. She was fluent in about 10 languages, including Slovenian and Serbo-Croatian. It is worth mentioning that she was also an interpreter for the Yugoslav delegation at the Paris Peace Conference.

Over the last decades women have been making gradual progress in achieving higher positions in the field of academia, yet many academics still experience persisting barriers that are still hindering women’s scientific careers. On that topic, Maca Jogan, an emeritus professor of the University of Ljubljana, a prominent figure in Slovenian sociology and the founding mother of women’s and gender studies in Slovenia, presented her lecture in which she mapped the steps of women’s inclusion in the field of science in Slovenia and their continuing efforts and activities towards gender equality in academia and in society as a whole.

She also highlighted two important steps towards achieving gender equality at the University of Ljubljana. Maternal leave in Slovenia was in 1975 prolonged from three to eight months. This applied also to women working at University of Ljubljana. However, any promotion opportunities they might have had were put off for the length of time that they were on maternity leave. Then in, 1986 maternity leave was lengthened to a year and was fully paid.

However, a woman’s entry in the sphere of paid labour was not accompanied by an equal division of work in the household as well as caring activities between the spouses. The lack of this division produced a double burden on women. The traditional role of women as care-givers still partly persist today, Jogan points out. Motherhood is likely to interrupt or postpone the professional development of a woman, or at least it may slow down their academic careers. Whereas fatherhood is still less likely to disrupt male professional development and the advancement of their careers.

In addition to that, female Assistants and Assistant Professors also face harsher barriers outside and inside the academic field than males do. These barriers are expressed in various forms of discrimination and unequal treatment which result in less opportunities being given to women in comparison to men. For example, women are more burdened with unpleasant routine tasks, they face more negative stereotypes on their role in science and they are more likely to be overburdened with less rewarding work in academia.

A hundred years after the establishment of the University of Ljubljana and decades after the university opened its doors to everyone, women still haven’t achieved equality in this field. Current data and information of the position of women and men in the university reveal that traditional ‘gender roles’ and stereotypes have been reproduced at level of the disciplines. Indeed, there is about 60% female and 40% male students enrolled in Faculties of University of Ljubljana. However, there is a profound disproportionate gender-based division of students on the following Faculties: women dominate in social work (94%)1, in education (85%), environmental protection (85%), healthcare (79%), law (75%), humanities (74%); whereas men dominate in technical studies (86%) computer science (86%), transport services (70%) and maths and statistics (61%).

Source: Analysis of enrolment in study year 2018-2019, University of Ljubljana, February 2019

In addition, despite the fact that the number of students and employees who are women have increased at the University, gender-based inequalities still resonate, which is evident when examining leadership positions. Indeed, in its hundred years of existence, there has only been one female Rector at the University so far.


1 Analiza prijave in vpisa, študijsko leto 2018-2019, Univerza v Ljubljani, Visokošolsko prijavna služba, februar 2019. // Analysis of enrolment in the study year 2018-2019, University of Ljubljana, February 2019. Available at: https://www.uni-lj.si/studij/prijavno-sprejemni-postopki/obvestila/

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