A UK higher education institution has committed to having at least 50 per cent women across its board of directors, its executive team and its professors and senior lecturers by 2020.
University Campus Suffolk said that it was making the achievement of gender parity in senior positions one of its main aims for the next five years.
Launching the institution’s strategy document, 2020 Vision, Richard Lister, provost and chief executive of UCS, told Times Higher Education that the institution was ideally placed to lead on the issue.
“We don’t carry decades of history that make it difficult for us [to make changes]. We are an institution with a majority of women students and a majority of women staff, and senior levels should reflect that. It seems to me to be an absolute no-brainer,” he said.
Currently, 55 per cent of the institution’s managers and 53 per cent of its senior lecturers are women, Mr Lister said, but there were challenges to overcome with regard to its professoriate and its board.
He said that UCS had begun to build a “pipeline of talent” to ensure that the equal representation at lower levels filtered up to senior positions.
“We have set up a new layer of associate professor, and that makes it easier to take the relatively large number of women we have at senior lecturer level and work with them to get them to associate professor…[and potentially] to full professorial level,” he said.
He pointed out that just 14 per cent of UK vice-chancellors are women, only one in five professors is female and, at some institutions, just one in 10 academics at professorial level is a woman.
However, Mr Lister said that he was “not for a moment having a pop” at other institutions.
“Clearly, other institutions have got further to go…and because of their size and scale, they will find the transition process takes them longer,” he said. “The fact we are relatively new means we have flexibility. It is simply the right thing to do morally and as a business, and it is achievable.”