We're aiming to be 'beacon of equality'

Posted by pt91 at Sep 29, 2015 03:55 PM |
President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Boyle announces the launch of the HeForShe university tour in a First Person column for the Leicester Mercury

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Today (29 September), I am proud to announce that the United Nations will commence their HeForShe university tour of the United Kingdom and France from here -  at the University of Leicester.  Through this, we seek to open up and make public the conversation around gender equality.

Our event today provides a platform for representatives from UN Women as well as political leaders, representatives of the student body and academics engaging in gender research.

Earlier this year, we announced the University of Leicester had been selected as one of only 10 universities worldwide to partner with the United Nations in their HeForShe 10x10x10 impact champion initiative.  This pilot initiative brings together 10 universities, 10 corporations and 10 state governments from across the world, who have made tangible commitments to advance gender equality.

As gender imbalance remains a significant issue in Higher Education institutions, I am keen for Leicester to lead the way in tackling this most fundamental of human rights issues.  The UN’s HeForShe movement highlights the importance of men engaging in the gender equality debate, and empowers them to take a stand for women’s equality.

The University has a long history of promoting and advancing gender equality within higher education, including its engagement with the Equality Challenge Unit’s Athena SWAN Charter Mark.  Through this, we have developed initiatives such as a carer’s conference and training fund.  This enables carers to claim costs for childcare or caring responsibilities, so they may attend conferences or training which they otherwise would not be able to attend.

I, with colleagues from the University, have also recently published research which examines the gender differences in research grant funding in UK social sciences.  This research concluded that young, female social scientists outperform men in the value of their research awards, but women received only one-fifth of overall research grants. This is simply driven by the fact that while women are well represented in less senior academic positions, they hold less than a quarter of the professorial roles at UK universities.

The fact that women are not reaching the highest positions in academia is clearly not a result of innate differences in intelligence and steps must be taken to address this persistent inequality which will have hindered scientific advances.  Through initiatives such as HeForShe and Athena SWAN, we seek to rectify this inequality.

Our status as worldwide champions of the HeForShe movement is both a great privilege and a huge responsibility. We have been vested with the challenge of making transformational advances in gender equality and being a beacon for the rest of the world. We aim to deliver fundamental change within a generation, so that organizations such as HeForShe become redundant and my two daughters and two sons take it for granted that they will be judged on their merits, not their gender.

Professor Paul Boyle is President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester

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