It is not uncommon to find that men continue to dominate the workplace, even in the field of academia. In Indian universities, women are under-represented. In the year 2011, women took up 3% of vice-chancellor posts compared to 2.3% in Japan, no women in Hong Kong and 15% in Malaysia. Regarding wages, women academics in the UK earned 11.3% less than men academics, as indicated in a 2015 study.

One of the reasons men continue to outnumber women is that there is an insufficient number of women that are seeking promotions. This is despite the general understanding/perception that women have a higher success rate than men in getting promoted. A point to note is that women begin their academic careers at lower levels than men. A study by Belinda Probert found that the figure was closer to roughly 50% for men. Nearly 75% of all respondents started out below the lecturer position. Furthermore, student evaluation of university lecturers is one of the factors considered in promotion. It is likely that the evaluations be biased against female professors, and this is problematic.  Additionally, in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), men are the ones who continue to dominate women. This can be attributed to parents’ perception that girls should not study courses that are difficult and ‘meant for boys’. According to Adams, in his field of finance and economics at Australia’s University of New South Wales (UNSW), only a small number of women are at highly senior levels. Ironically enough, there is enough evidence to show that girls may outnumber boys in the ranks of university students. In private higher learning institutions in Rwanda, girls make up 53% of the total enrolment, while boys account for 47%.  Even so, policies in place to promote and enhance gender equality have not been very effective in breaking down such barriers.

It is clear that gender equality has to be a collective effort, and not just the effort of a particular party. Importantly, the voices of women must be heard and not be drowned out by men. For instance, during a forum, female lecturers should be given the chance to speak up and have her opinion respected, and not be overpowered by male lecturers. Additionally, one is encouraged to pay attention to who organises events and celebrations in the academic world so that participation is not always limited to women.  Also, men should know better not to comment on a woman’s appearance in a professional context.

To sum up, while efforts have been taken to fight for gender equality, much still needs to be done to lessen stereotypes and dismissive behaviour by the opposite sex. To do so, it is only logical that both men and women come to a mutual understanding.

– Yong Jo Leen, Correspondent (Our World)

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