Defined by absence: the invisible women in HE leadership

Monday 01 June 2015 -
15:15 to 16:30
Session 3.1. Queen Elizabeth II Centre, London.

Enrolment in Higher Education for women is now approaching parity, and in some countries, has overtaken men, yet this does not translate into senior appointments and leadership positions within Higher Education institutions. Vice chancellorships are still a male preserve (e.g. 3% India, 14% UK) and there is evidence of a sharp tapering of opportunities for women across the Higher Education spectrum, particularly in the most senior posts. 

In examining the relationship between peoples, cultures and ideas and the subsequent leap in innovation, it is all too easy to look at what exists rather than what is missing and ignore the elephant in the room. Asian countries are making positive steps in building a more gender-inclusive society, but policies specific to women leaders in academia are few and far between. There is a correlation between women managers and leaders, and a woman's role in society: more patriarchal societies tend to have fewer women at the helm.

Excluding women from management and decision-making positions wastes skills and talent - academic studies suggest that gender diversity in leadership improves organisational performance, innovation and accountability.

There is overwhelming evidence that time for talking is gone – what we require now are action steps and practical interventions to challenge the status quo of HE leadership globally.

The session 

• Presents research evidencing women's representation in HE leadership globally. 

• Explores the barriers (perceived or real) preventing women from scaling the precarious ivory tower.  

• Debates the interventions, cultural, attitudinal and structural changes needed to ensure a more representative HE leadership. 

The session will aim to stimulate discussion amongst participants to draw out specific action steps and practical interventions to address gender inequality in leadership. 

For further reading on this and related topics, read our speaker interviews with Professor Janet Beer and Professor Cheryl de la Rey.

Professor Janet Beer
Vice-Chancellor, University of Liverpool, UK

Professor Janet Beer took up the position of Vice-Chancellor of the University of Liverpool in February 2015. She was previously Vice-Chancellor of Oxford Brookes University since 2007. Professor Beer is the chair of the Board of the Equality Challenge Unit, the Higher Education Public Informations Steering Group, UCAS Audit Committee and member of the Boards of the British Council, Universities UK, NCUB and UCAS. She is a scholar of American Literature. Session 3.1

Professor Janet Beer

Professor Fanny Cheung OBE JP
Pro Vice-Chancellor, Chinese University of Hong Kong, SAR

Professor Cheung is Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Choh-Ming Li Professor of Psychology at CUHK. She initiated gender studies and was the founding Chairperson of the Equal Opportunities Commission in Hong Kong. Her research expertise includes cross-cultural psychology and gender issues. She received the 2014 IAAP Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award and the 2012 APA Award for Distinguished Contributions to the International Advancement of Psychology. Session 3.1

Professor Fanny Cheung OBE

Professor Louise Morley
Director, Centre for Higher Education and Equity Research, University of Sussex, UK

Louise Morley is Professor of Education/Director of the Centre for Higher Education and Equity Research, University of Sussex, UK. Louise has an international profile in the field of the sociology of gender in higher education, and has recently completed British Council research on women in higher education leadership in South Asia. Session 3.1

Professor Louise Morley

Professor Cheryl de la Rey
Vice-Chancellor, University of Pretoria, South Africa

Previously she was the Chief Executive Officer of the Council on Higher Education, and Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Cape Town. She has published several books and journal articles in her discipline, psychology. She has done extensive work on gender issues, leadership and higher education policy. Session 3.1

Professor Cheryl de la Ray

David Ruebain
Chief Executive, Equality Challenge Unit, UK

David has been Chief Executive of Equality Challenge Unit, the UK tertiary education equality & diversity policy and research agency, since June 2010.  Prior to that, he was a practicing solicitor for 21 years; latterly as Director of Legal Policy at the Equality and Human Rights Commission of Great Britain.  David writes and teaches extensively and sits on a number of boards and committees including the Advisory Group of the Office for Fair Access. Session 3.1

David Ruebain