During Women’s Month 2021, USAf’s TMF and HERS-SA examine burning gender issues within Higher Education

Published On: 6 August 2021|

August 2021 marks the beginning of a second round of a collaboration commemorating Women’s Month, between Universities South Africa’s Transformation Managers’ Forum (TMF) and Higher Education Resource Services-South Africa (HERS-SA). TMF and HERS-SA will host a series of webinars every Thursday, commencing on the 12th and ending on the 26th of August.

This is a build-up from a series of engagements that took place in August 2020, which sought to raise awareness and find solutions for a range of challenges that women face in the higher education sector.

In 2020, the webinars tackled topics ranging from Women as Adaptive Leaders; The State of Gender Transformation; Gender-based Violence to Intergenerational Leadership in Higher Education.

According to Ms Brightness Mangolothi (left), Director: HERS-SA, the 2020 events were well received; hence, the decision to dig deeper and explore more issues in 2021. “Women suggested more conversations that would look more holistically at their plight. More importantly, they want to create a think-tank that will influence policies and institutional cultures.”.

Within the broad context of gender transformation in higher education, the 2021 programme will unpack topics such as why achieving diversity in academic staff is slow. The online webinars will interrogate transformation experiences of non-academic staff and explore why academic institutions need ombudsman services.  In line with the TMF mandate, the Women’s Month series is creating a platform for stakeholders to engage with pressing issues and hear various expert perspectives while continuing to facilitate networking through the exchange of much-needed information and insights.

The TMF Chairperson, Mr George Mvalo (right), says because of these stimulating engagements, many participants have grown to realise the agency role they can play in their own work environments. Ms Mangolothi concurs, adding that they wish to begin to propose interventions and encourage agency at all levels of the institutions in a more holistic manner.

For Mangolothi, the appointment of female vice-chancellors at the University of South Africa and Walter Sisulu University in 2020 were testaments that conversations on transformation and women empowerment are not being held in vain.

To register to join the 2021 dialogue, click on the link beneath each topic summary below.

Topic: Gender Transformation in Higher Education – should we be asking new questions?

When: 12 August 2021 @ 14h00

Description: South Africa’s universities form the bedrock of the country’s National System of Innovation (NSI). A capable workforce backed by a solid talent pipeline is critical for the achievement of the goals of the NSI. While we see rapid changes in student demographics, staff diversity advances at a snail pace. Institutional cultures continue to perpetuate the status quo. We examine barriers to change and propose interventions for the optimum performance of the NSI.

Topic: Non-academic staff experiences in Higher Education

When: 19 August 2021 @ 14h00

Description: Support / non-academic staff are professional employees who contribute significantly to the success of institutions of higher learning. Lived experiences of black academics in South Africa are well captured in scholarly writings. However, there’s a dearth of research on non-academic staff experiences. This webinar aims to unpack the lived experiences of non-academic women and to propose much needed interventions.

Topic: Why do all academic institutions need an Ombudsman?

When: 26 August 2021 @ 14h00

Description: Ombudsing at academic institutions in South Africa has demonstrated the impact of these offices in resolving untold issues brought by stakeholders, and in most cases preventing grievances from being disseminated through unconventional means including social media. This is underlined by the Department of Higher Education and Training encouraging universities to establish their own Ombud offices with the support of Ms Zetu Makamandela-Mguqulwa, once the Ombudsman of the University of Cape Town.