Whatever the societal, cultural or infrastructure differences, higher education institutions (HEIs) around the world share one alarming factor: the absence of women leaders, said a panel of education leaders yesterday at Going Global 2013 in Dubai.
Speaking ahead of International Women’s Day, the panellists of ‘Action for Women in Higher Education Leadership’ presented their Manifesto for Change, which seeks to increase the representation of women in leadership positions at HEIs.
Building on data collected through workshops in the Middle East and East Asia, ‘Manifesto for Change’ is an outcome of the British Council’s Women in Higher Education Leadership (WHEL) initiative. Debating the consequences of women’s exclusion from mainstream knowledge production, members of the panel emphasised the need to augment women’s leadership roles.
British Council research, which was presented by Professor Louise Morley from the University of Sussex at the event, demonstrated that higher education is suffering from ‘absent talent’ as women are under-represented at the more senior levels. Professor Morley said: 'What are the consequences for our knowledge economies if women are so under-represented as leaders of knowledge producing and disseminating organisations? It means that when we actually talk about a ‘knowledge economy’ we also must debate what, or whose knowledge we are actually talking about. Who are the gate keepers of knowledge? And what knowledge is getting disqualified and dismissed?'
Professor Morley added: 'We need diversity not just for moral purposes or social justice but also for sustainability and the development of human capital: we cannot afford to ignore half a workforce. Gender equality is smart economics.'
The ‘Manifesto for Change’ sets out a number of actions for both men and women in the higher education sector, under the themes:
- Accountability and a new world ranking for institutions based on gender equality;
- Transparency from our global institutions about representation of women;
- Development and commitment to invest in women to bring female talent up the ranks;
- Data and research into enablers and impediments to promotion of women in education.
Halima Begum, Director of Education, East Asia, British Council, commented: 'The research gives us powerful data and evidence to back action for women to capitalise from leadership opportunities in higher education. The global participants to the workshop, GG2013 echoed one message: equality should be included as a performance indicator in world university rankings.'
Professor Louise Morley commented that we need to stop the mis-recognition of women’s skills, competencies and potential.