The Sunday Independent
SEX EQUALITY URGED AT UNIVERSITIES
SUPPORT for the development of a barometer to measure and monitor change at varsities, calls for a freeze on professorship promotions for male applicants, and the threat of legal action to enforce section 9 of the Constitution on equality were among the proposals to transform South African universities at a sex transformation in higher education webinar.
Academics also called for the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) to implement recommendations of the 2010/2015 higher education summits, as well as last year’s report containing recommendations on recruitment, retention and promotion of black academics.
“We have been in this business as higher education since 1994, and the governance architecture of our institutions hasn’t really changed fundamentally since, including the issues of gender transformation,” said George Mvalo, the chairperson of the Transformation Managers Forum (TMF) under the auspices of Universities South Africa (USAf), the body representing all public universities in the country.
Mvalo said there has been and continues to be resistance to gender transformation at some institutions, in addition to a lack of urgency and an absence of consequence for not implementing sex equality at universities.
He made these comments at the HERS (Higher Education Resource Services) South Africa/USAf TMF virtual webinar recently where the emphasis was on female leadership development, advocacy, research and collaboration to push for much-needed change.
Mvalo said womened dominate by and large the tertiary system – the overall sex headcount was 86678 women versus 75788 men in 2017, women with master’s numbering 6 250, compared to 5 882 men, but since 2015, out of 20 vice-chancellor vacancies, only four were filled by women, while 12 women held deputy vice-chancellors out of 30 positions.
Referring to the minority of women in vice-chancellor roles, Mvalo, director of the Social Justice and Transformation Unit, Vaal University of Technology (VUT) said: “That tells us a story about how we view the role of women in higher education, particularly when it comes to leadership positions.”
Showing some progress, he said, in 2001, there were 25.7% women associate professors and 14.5% women full professors, but last year according to DHET there were 30% women professors.
He said there was an urgent need to change the institutional culture at universities, adding that some of the TMF initiatives range from holding public dialogues to developing a transformation barometer for the sector as a self-monitoring tool.
The transformation barometer was adopted by USAf board and is being adopted by various councils of public universities.
Mvalo said the governance set-up of higher education institutions should be reset and consideration should be given to instituting legal action to enforce section 9 of the Constitution on equality, if need be.
“And if you look at section nine of the Constitution, it talks about equality… we have several ministerial reports calling for change, some of them dating back to, as far as 2008, and before that. And the question is actually what have we done with these reports?
“Over the past five years, it appears, therefore, that there seems to be a default position by higher education, whenever there are opportunities to accelerate gender transformation by ensuring that there’s parity in leadership positions, the top jobs went to men, therefore the need to reset, restart and recalibrate gender transformation in higher education,” he said.