Professor Jo Beall, Director Education and Society, British Council, openeda panel discussion on the UN gender equality campaign, “#HeForShe, whichlaunched in September 2014 as a global solidarity movement for gender equality, with the aim of engaging and encouraging men and boys to take action against the gender inequality which women across the world face.
The UN’s 10x10x10 initiative galvanises 10 heads of state, 10 universities and 10 corporate champions to drive gender equality globally.
The panellists explored what the campaign means for the global higher education community and how to bring about impact in the field of gender equality in the sector.
Professor Paul Boyle, Vice-Chancellor, University of Leicester, UK, said, “The critical issue if we are to make changes in universities is to change the culture, and achieving this is a real challenge. Men don’t think gender equality is about them and it’s a critical thing to change. In our institutions, gender equality discussions are dominated by women while men are getting on with research and other activities. The essence of this campaign is to get men to step up and take some ownership, Both men and women have a role to play in addressing gender equality. “
Professor Boyle lamented the fact that less than 25per cent of professors are women and calculated that it will take about 40 years before women equal the rate of male professors in the United Kingdom.
He said: “There is no good reason why women are under-represented in senior posts. In the higher education context, it means ensuring the very best people go into -and remain- in research at the top of our institutions for the benefit of society.”
“Professor Adam Habib, Vice-Chancellor, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa also remarked that the lack of African women academics is real problem. “
Regarding the issue of gender based violence against women, Anne Githuku-Shongwe, Head of UN Women, South Africa explained,
“If we want to turn a corner in terms of gender violence, we have to do that together with men. Our bid is to shape this planet 50/50 men and women and I am working on a strategy for South Africa to make it real. I want to know how we are going to track results and who is performing in this area and who is not, and how to stop gender based violence. We want to see gender parity by 2050, it’s our goal and we think it’s possible.“
Professor Habib, discussed the need to address sexual harassment and gender based harm. He said, “I think we have a crisis in South African universities. We have made some progress in terms of addressing sexual harassment and created a more equal footing but we need to address the crisis. The positive thing is that this is now receiving a focus like never before and victims are not going to remain silent”