The article uses data from the Italian Ministry for Education to describe the effects of the reform of the university recruitment system on academic careers and gender differences. It shows that the large increase in the numbers of university professors and researchers between 1954 and 1999 has mainly affected associate and assistant professors, whereas the real growth in numbers of full professors occurred only after the reform (+13% in just two years). The most notable effect of the reform is that the chances of "insiders" have increased. Very few new researchers have been recruited, with the result that the average age of university teachers has increased. This is true of all disciplinary groups, but scientific faculties have been somewhat more parsimonious in promoting existing staff and more willing to recruit "new blood". Career opportunities have been greatest in the smaller universities. Somewhat more women have gained posts compared to the past, but women's opportunities are still far less than men's, especially in scientific areas. The greatest hurdle is the passage from researcher to associate professor: here women have, on average, 66% of the chances of men; in no faculty are their chances better than 80%.