University is blazing a trail for equality

Posted by pt91 at May 08, 2015 12:10 PM |
President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Boyle speaks in the Leicester Mercury about the University of Leicester's involvement in the United Nations Women HeForShe Campaign

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Gender imbalance in the leadership of higher education is a serious issue world-wide.  When I arrived at the University of Leicester in October 2014 I pledged that Leicester would lead the way on gender equality, just as it has done on social inclusion through measures to secure fair and equal access for students from non-traditional backgrounds.  So I am, of course, proud of the fact that the University of Leicester has been selected as one of only 10 universities worldwide to take a leading role in the newly launched United Nations Women HeForShe Campaign.

The campaign emphasises the important role that men can play towards achieving gender equality for women, an agenda that has been led for too long mainly by women.  The campaign involves a 10x10x10 impact pilot for which ten universities, ten corporations and ten state governments from across the world will be chosen to champion gender equality through practical steps.  The University of Leicester is one of the first five global universities to be chosen and five more will join the campaign soon.

It is fitting that the University of Leicester should be trailblazing women’s equality because when it was founded as Leicestershire and Rutland University College in 1921, eight of its first nine students were women.

Gender equality is not a matter of being nice to women. In a higher education context it is about ensuring that the very best people go into and remain in research and teaching, achieving the greatest results for the benefit of society. It is about making sure that women are not held back by lack of confidence, systems that favour men or unconscious bias. It is about making sure that women play an equal role in the senior leadership of our universities.  All of these issues are being proactively tackled at the University of Leicester.

Men and women have a joint responsibility to achieve gender equality for societies around the world. We should aim to deliver fundamental change within a generation, so that organisations 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.

At Leicester we are not starting from scratch.  Gender initiatives are already underway and we have successes within our institution on which we can build. But there is more we can do, and the United Nations Women HeForShe campaign is an opportunity for us to join with others, including local partners, to achieve genuine cultural change.

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

This article originally appeared in the Leicester Mercury on 7 May 2015.

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