Institutions consider gender equality in recruitment, progression and research.

By Natasha Davies. Twitter: @daviesna2.

Earlier this month ( Sept 2014 ) I attended the 8th European Conference on Gender Equality in Higher Education in Vienna.

The timing was perfect as it fell a week before Chwarae Teg launched “A Woman’s Place in Academia”, a benchmarking report that analysed the position of women in leadership within higher education.

The Conference in Vienna reaffirmed that many of the issues we see in Wales and the UK in relation to women in higher education, i.e. being under-represented in senior positions and in STEM subjects, are issues that many countries across Europe and beyond share with us.

I was also able to hear about the many different approaches being taken to address the inequalities.

Some focus on supporting women. The New Zealand Women in Leadership programme is a great example of such an approach. Working with both academic and professional / administrative staff, the programme sees women attend a week long residential course that aims to provide them with the skills and confidence to take the steps into leadership positions.

Other initiatives look to the institutions themselves. Genovate is an example of this. Working with Higher Education Institutions across Europe, the Genovate project supports them to implement Gender Equality Action Plans and encourages gender competent management.

Within this project institutions consider gender equality in recruitment, progression and research, the benefits of a work/life responsive workplace and the role of equality and diversity in ensuring excellence in research and innovation.

Some projects have gone even further and brought about structural change within an institution to truly embed gender awareness across all departments. Such an approach has been taken at the University of Cologne in Germany.

A dual career and family support scheme and the Centre for Gender Studies.

Here gender equality has prominence at the very top through a Pro-Rectorate for Planning, Finances and Gender who is supported by a Commission for Gender and a Gender Board, which is made up of representatives from across the institution.

At an operational level gender equality is also embedded in the University’s structures through a Centre for Gender Quality Management, a dual career and family support scheme and the Centre for Gender Studies.

This allows the work of gender equality officers to benefit directly from the research of staff and students within the academic school and by embedding gender equality policies and programmes into the University’s structures it is hoped that they will be more resilient to personnel change.

These projects are just 3 examples of the many programmes and approaches being trialled across Europe and the wider world to tackle a common challenge, that being how we ensure that women have equal opportunities and representation within higher education.

We have the levers here in Wales to take innovative and radical steps to achieve this and it’s important that we look to colleagues in other countries to learn from their experiences to ensure that a woman’s place in academia equals that of men.

Chwarae Teg’s Emma Richards ( pictured ) also attended the event @emmakrichards.

Download the findings from our research “A Woman’s Place in Academia”.