Friday, June 05, 2015

Only 13 of India's 431 universities have women VCs

The prestigious Oxford University last week announced that Professor Louise Richardson, subject to approval, could go on to become the university's first woman Vice-Chancellor in its 800-year history.

Down in India, things are not too different. Multiple studies reveal the percentage of women vice-chancellors in India is at a shocking 3%, with just 13 universities of the 431 a UGC study surveyed, having women running a university. This, despite girls outdoing boys year after year in exams, and women constituting more than 50% of teaching positions in universities.

According to a British Council commissioned report titled 'Women in Higher Education Leadership in South Asia: Rejection, Refusal, Reluctance, Revisioning', the percentage of women teaching staff drops drastically at higher levels. "Women constitute only 1.4% of the professoriate, though there are many at other positions like readers, lecturers etc," the report released in February 2015 notes.

Adding that even of the 13 women vice-chancellors, six are from all-women universities, the report says there is a culture of discrimination. "There are many reasons -- from the way selection committees are constituted to the way women and men think. Most women academicians are more passionate about teaching than running institutions, which is why many of them, although qualified, do not choose to apply for such posts and stay with pure academics," Meena Rajiv Chandawarkar, Vice-Chancellor, Karnataka State Women's University, told TOI.

Quoting a Universities Grants Commission (UGC) constituted task force in 2013, the report says: "Glass ceilings and fears over promotion must receive more attention, as the feedback received by the Task Force would indicate widespread practices of discrimination and harassment among women working in higher education institutions." Berin Lucas, professor, sociology department of St Joseph's College of Arts and Science says: "Higher education must open its doors to new learning, but unfortunately, it is only a reflection of the patriarchal fabric of society, which operates in every spectrum of life, not even exempting education."

The statistics the report provides are at least two years old, and there could have been a slight ascent in the number of women V-Cs. Unlike in many developed nations, readily available statistics on gender disparity in India are missing. However, significant efforts have been made by some scholars to excavate data manually to show a lack of women's representation in higher education leadership, despite a growing presence at the undergraduate level.

"It appears that statistics on higher education employment are collected annually by the UGC, but not reported by gender. Although the All India Survey of Higher Education (AISHE) conducted by the Government of India in 2013 provides a wealth of statistical data, which is differentiated by gender, as well as Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe, it is not clear when this will be repeated and no previous survey exists from which a trend analysis might be developed," the British Council report notes.

"Even the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) Annual Report 2014, which has announced the launch of AISHE 2012-13 and the development of a Higher Education Statistics and Public Information System, does not provide any statistics on staffing," the report adds.

Prejudices hinder growth
Jancy James, Kerala's first woman Vice-Chancellor says, "The entire selection process is based on old assumptions and prejudices. There are many vacant positions, and I don't think the overall situation has changed much in the past two years. The problem of a glass ceiling and notions of what a woman can achieve are the biggest hindrance to their growth. Women can perform the tasks, it even reflects in the balance sheet. But the position of VCs in most universities is reduced to positions of defence against all kinds of violence — political, financial, and so on".

Women not allowed to grow
Priya Chetty-Rajagopal, Executive Director - Leadership & Board Practice, RGF Executive Search, India says, "The findings of the report are shocking, the percentage shouldn't be this low. But there are multiple factors affecting women in the sector. One, there is a lack of opting in. I think many women get into the profession with a passion for teaching and do not, at a later stage, opt for a managerial job. There is also a problem of women being forgotten. Is the system forgetting to check for qualified women and forgetting to ask them? The second thing is a lot of women are being ploughed off at the HoD level and are not allowed to grow. The third is the job of a VC is not just academic, it involves building relationships with the industry, alumni, branding the institute, corresponding with the government and keeping in touch with foundations and so on".

Source: The Times of India, June 5, 2015
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