Universities South Africa, the country’s vice-chancellors’ organisation, plans to conduct a study on the gender imbalance at senior levels of higher education, the group’s leader has said.
Ahmed Bawa, chief executive of Universities South Africa, said that the fact that only five of the country’s 26 vice-chancellors were women was “deeply concerning”, according to University World News.
Data from the Higher Education Management Information System also show that only 27.5 per cent of professors in South African institutions are female.
Professor Bawa said that 58 per cent of the students in South African universities are women and noted that women outnumber men at lecturer level. “However, we are not seeing the same trend at the senior levels. And this clearly has to be an area of investigation,” he said.
The investigation will examine whether there are systemic impediments that prevent women’s selection for vice-chancellor positions; whether the pipeline of female candidates is large enough; and whether barriers prevent women from applying for top posts.
“It is very well known that the pipeline is very narrow,” Professor Bawa explained. “We must understand why it is that women academics are not progressing into professorships at sufficiently high levels.”
Universities South Africa plans to conduct the study this year “to determine what the situation is”, Professor Bawa said.