Don’t be distracted from equality challenges, universities told

Need to meet demands of technological advances should not overshadow long-standing problems of gender and race, conference told

May 25, 2018
Distracted during presentation

Universities must address continuing inequalities in global academia before fully shifting their attention to meeting the challenges posed by rapid technological change, a conference has heard.

Rebeca Grynspan, a former vice-president of Costa Rica and secretary general of the Ibero-American Conference, told the Universia 2018 meeting at the University of Salamanca that efforts to ensure fair gender representation and diversity were still not being given sufficient priority by higher education institutions.

A duty to give women and minority groups a “seat at the table” must be taken seriously, Ms Grynspan said. “This century will explore many exciting things – artificial intelligence, robotics and medical advances – but we need to commit to gender equality first,” she told the conference.

Ms Grynspan was participating in a panel debate about how universities could ensure that their strategies prepared them for the challenges of the coming decades. While much was said about the importance of nurturing university-industry relations and knowledge exchange, female speakers highlighted that not enough had been said about entrenched problems such as gender inequality.

Earlier in the day, Sally Mapstone, principal of the University of St Andrews, told an audience of university rectors and vice-chancellors that they had to think “very strongly about inclusiveness” when planning their strategies.

“We’re all going to talk about the importance of entrepreneurship, curriculum development and broadening engagement with business,” she said. “But we’re only going to do this in a meaningful way if we also embrace diversity and make sure entrepreneurship actually addresses all aspects of our university make-up, students and staff, and that we benefit women and ethnic minorities as well as everyone else.”

rachael.pells@timeshighereducation.com

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