Pacific Rim Universities meet highlights women leadership in academe

(Association of Pacific Rim Universities hold 2016 APRU Asia-Pacific Women in Leadership Workshop)

By Euchrissa Theresa Ladrera for UP Cebu Public Information Office
(Fotos by Elisha Judy Tabaque)

TO DISCUSS the progress of gender mainstreaming as strategy for promoting gender equality and challenges of women leadership in the academe, senior university leaders, researchers and administrators from four Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU) member universities convened at the 2016 APRU Asia-Pacific Women in Leadership (APWiL) Workshop, Wednesday.

Launched in June 2013, APWiL serves as a platform for sharing practices in advancing women’s participation in the academe and research as well as in bridging the gender gap in higher education through policy development.

This year’s two-day workshop, which is centered on the theme, “Making Numbers Matter: Sustaining the Next Generation of Women Academic Leaders,” is hosted by the University of the Philippines through the Office of International Linkages (UP OIL), a unit under the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs mandated to explore areas of linkages with foreign and local institutions.

The workshop aims to continue the discussions on previous APWiL workshops on the necessity of gender quotas, issues of merit and excellence, and implicit gender bias as well as to explore ways of addressing the gaps and drawbacks of women leadership in the academe.

Pascual’s message

Outgoing UP President Alfredo Pascual, through Professor Joselito Florendo, UP Vice President for Planning and Finance, recognized the university’s role as an instrument for gender equality and justice starting in its own campuses.

“Universities as leaders of many disciplines and researchers have the means and the obligation to study and to provide solutions to the societal issues and the challenges of development. Examining the ways of achieving development is paramount so that it will become faster, sustainable and inclusive,” Pascual said.

Aside from its national mandate, Pascual also recognized UP’s mandate to be the country’s global research and regional university.

“It is incumbent upon UP to channel the successes of our country to efforts of other countries to make gains in the same fields,” Pascual said, highlighting UP’s role in the country’s great success on gender equality.

He also acknowledged the successful history of women leadership since the year 1912, citing that half of the university’s major administrative positions was held by women.

“For change to be true, it must always come from within,” Pascual said, calling APRU universities to uphold gender equality and justice as essential within their spheres of influence.

Gender Equity in US Higher Education

Meanwhile, Dr. Cindy Fan, Vice Provost for International Studies and Global Engagement of the University of California, Los Angeles, introduced the idea of the “pipeline myth” during her discussion of gender equity in US higher education.

“Women graduated at a higher rate than men across all racial groups, which increases women’s representation in the pipeline,” Fan said.

She also interpreted the “glass ceiling” as a two-dimensional concept that refers to intangible barriers preventing women to rise to senior level positions as well as a reflection of the persistent pay gap between men and women at the same faculty rank.

According to Fan, among all public sectors, the academe is the only one with a declining number of women leaders.

“Women do not hold associate professor or full professor positions at the same rate as men appears. They are also not ascending to leadership positions,” she said.

State of Gender Mainstreaming in Tertiary Education and Women’s Academic Leadership

Dr. Amaryllis Tiglao-Torres, Professor Emeritus from the University of the Philippines Diliman and executive director of the Philippine Social Science Council, defined gender mainstreaming as putting gender equality in the center of policy, plans, structures, research and teaching.

“To mainstream is to introduce separate courses on women if it’s possible, but also to say that the perspective that is carried into the women’s studies course is also adapted in the other courses of the university,” Torres said.

In her lecture, Dr. Helen Lockey, Director of Educational and Institutional Intelligence of University of Hongkong pointed out that the greatest difficulty women face in moving to senior-level roles is a “double-burden.”

“The double burden is that, we hold on a job and we hold on the family as well, something that men don’t have to manage, Lockey said.

She also highlighted that family background could influence women’s leadership capacity.

“Women who have been mentored achieve greater successful careers,” she said.

To achieve gender parity, Lockey cited initial steps such as women-friendly policies, talks and seminars for women and researches assessing the classification of the jobs offered to men and women
in the university.

During the panel discussion, Dr. Carolyn Sobritchea, Chairperson and Technical Working Panel on Gender and Women’s Studies, Commission on Higher Education stressed that consultative process, listening skills and participatory planning are essential to the survival of women academic leaders.

“I also value the attitude and the norms in my university. While there’s a lot of patriarchal narratives, there is respect on academic excellence,” Sobritchea said, adding that women should assert for the post they deserve to get in the academe.

Continuing Challenges to Equity and Promotion of Women to Key Leadership Positions

Through the concept of “glass ceiling and glass floor,” Dr. Michael Tan, Chancellor of UP Diliman differentiates male and female approaches towards academic leadership.

“If you are male, you do it by storming the barricade. While women need to be much more careful because they are the ones on a glass floor. They have to thread carefully and softly and not make too much noise,” Tan said.

Continuing Gender Equity Issues in Academic Disciplines To wrap up the presentations, Dr. Robyn Overall, Emeritus Professor and Chair of Women in Science, University of Sydney and Dr. Merlyne Paunlagui, Director, Center for Strategic Planning and Policy studies illustrated gender equity in the field of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

“In an environment where things are changing, it is important to be able to think outside the box. To do that, we have to optimize diverse opinions to harness researches done in a team,” Overall said, stressing that diverse teams deliver better results than homogeneous teams.

In an interview, Dr. Rhodora Bucoy, Charperson of the Philippine Commission on Women, shared that APWil workshop is a platform to share practices on gender equity with other foreign universities.
“Through this workshop, we hope to be able to come up with concrete steps to address the socalled, glass ceilings and better schemes based on the experience of AustraliA and other countries,” Bucoy said.

The second leg of the APWil workshop continues today at the Marco Polo Plaza Cebu. Representatives from the different APRU-APWil universities hope to come up with action plans for pursuing collaborative research projects and training collaborations among APRU member universities in order to develop the next generation of women academic leaders.

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