The HeForShe campaign, which was launched in 2014, has now seen 10 universities sign up from around the world as part of its 10x10x10 pilot initiative that brings together education, industry and government to work toward gender equality.
“We are, in a sense, a pipeline for future leaders”
Paul Boyle, president and vice-chancellor at the University of Leicester, said that universities are best placed to help the campaign for two reasons: they have changes to make on their own campuses to establish gender equality and they educate future leaders.
“If we can change their [students’] way of thinking we have a huge impact not just in our own universities but in society generally,” he said. “We are, in a sense, a pipeline for future leaders.”
Boyle also said that while half of the University of Leicester’s staff are women, only 25% are in professorial positions.
“It’s calculated it will take about 40 years before women will equal men in professorial positions in the UK if the rate of change carries on as it is now,” he said.
“If we allow it to take 40 years, it effectively means we’re asking the next generation to deal with this instead of stepping up to do it ourselves.”
Adam Habib, principal and vice-chancellor at the University of the Witwatersrand, also acknowledged the lack of women in senior-level positions. “The problem is that the higher you go up the hierarchy, then the representation starts declining quite dramatically,” he said.
“There are cases in this country in institutions where there isn’t a single African woman professor in the entire institution. And that’s a serious indictment on our society and our higher education institution.”
Anne Githuku-Shongwe, head of UN Women in South Africa, said that some of the universities in the initiative have already made transformative commitments to increase female representation in both administration and academia, end gender-based violence on campus, and create centres for gender equality.
“This is a pilot initiative, this is not the end game, but this is where we are starting at this point,” she said.
Other universities involved in the programme are Stony Brook University and Georgetown University in the US, Nagoya University in Japan, Oxford University, University of Sao Paulo, University of Waterloo in Canada, Hong Kong University, and Sciences Po in France.
The 10x10x10 campaign brings together 10 heads of state and 10 corporate leaders in addition to the higher education leaders. The Presidents of Uruguay, Rwanda and Finland, and the CEOs of Vodafone, Barclays and Unilever have already committed to the campaign.