Stellenbosch University (SU) made a presentation to the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) at a hearing in Braamfontein this week. This was a follow-up to SU's presentation in November 2017. It formed part of the GCE's “institutions of higher learning hearings", which also included presentations by Sol Plaatje University and the universities of Zululand, Mpumalanga, Free State and Johannesburg.
“As a public institution and a national asset, SU is committed to the imperative of transformation in search of gender equality. SU respects the Constitution and the democratic oversight role performed by its institutions, including those in Chapter 9, like the CGE," SU Rector and Vice-Chancellor Prof Wim de Villiers told the panel of CGE commissioners on Wednesday (27 November 2019).
In his introduction, he provided an overview of SU, including its student and staff profiles.
“The University is a different place from the one I attended in the 1970s and '80s. It is becoming more and more diverse and integrated on a continuous basis," he said.
He pointed out that most students were women (55%), and they were also in the majority in terms of qualifications awarded (57%).
Most staff members are also women – 59% of all staff; 63% of professional administrative and support services (PASS) staff; and 51% of academic staff.
However, in senior management, women are in the minority, occupying only 38% of positions in job grades 1 to 6.
“There has been a slow but steady improvement. However, this clearly remains a big challenge," Prof De Villiers said.
He proceeded to report back on progress at SU with implementing the five recommendations the Commission made after the first hearing two years ago. One of these was that SU should address the gender pay gap.
“An investigation a few years ago revealed that the biggest pay gap occurred at levels 3–5, in both academic and PASS environments. R2,5 million was allocated in the budget to take the remuneration of females up to equivalent male levels where disparities existed. The pay gap has been closed, but we remain vigilant," Prof De Villiers said.
Another recommendation was that there should be gender focused recruitment, mentoring and retention of staff at SU.
“We are 'growing our own timber' to increase staff diversity at all levels. In addition, enhancing diversity is a key performance area (KPA) for all managers. It is incorporated into multi-year workforce plans, which must be submitted for approval," Prof De Villiers reported.
“Most significantly, the Rectorate approved a new Code for Management Practices for Employment Equity on 17 September, which sets the bar very high. Involvement in the transformation mandate of the University will in future constitutes 20–25% of all staff members' KPAs."
A third recommendation was that there should be sufficient gender representation in decision making bodies at SU. Prof De Villiers reported that the University's revised Statute, which came into effect on 16 August this year, “explicitly makes provision for diversity considerations that need to be adhered to in terms of race, gender and disability" in such structures as Council and the Institutional Forum.
“It was also gratifying to me at our last Senate meeting (22 November) to see that most of the new full professors introduced were women and diverse," he added.
Regarding the recommendation that gender diversity and equality should form part of student and staff orientation, the University said it was fully compliant.
The Equality Unit and Transformation Office provide training to students on such topics as sexual harassment, the bystander effect, rape culture, gender fluidity and sexuality diversity. And the Centre for Student Counselling and Development have developed a crisis protocol as a guide for dealing with such issues as gender‐based violence.
For personnel, the Siyakhula Diversity Capacity Programme is the Human Resources Division's flagship initiative.
Nearly 600 staff members have so far attended workshops on such topics as modern racism and internalised oppression, ableism/disability, institutional culture, stereotype threat and unconscious bias, visual redress, as well as religious and cultural inclusion.
“I have attended two of these sessions and found it extremely useful. I also expect my senior managers to attend," Prof De Villiers said.
The Commission said it welcomed and appreciated SU's presentation, particularly on progress with implementing its recommendations.
“We acknowledge that there has been significant progress at the University, but there are still some gaps on transformation. There is slow progress in terms of women in management and academic posts," CGE Chairperson Ms Tamara Mathebula said.
“We realise we are imperfect and incomplete. But we remain resolute on our journey of transformation. And we are pleased to be on this journey with all our stakeholders," Prof De Villiers concluded.
PHOTO: The SU delegation at the Gender Commission hearing on 27 November 2019, from left, Chief Director: Human Resources Victor Mothobi, Senior Director: Student Affairs Dr Choice Makhetha, Director: Employment Equity Sello Molapo, Registrar Dr Ronel Retief, Senior Director: Student Access Christelle Feyt, Senior Director: Social Impact & Transformation Dr Leslie van Rooi, Rector & Vice-Chancellor Prof Wim de Villiers, and Director: Centre for Student Counselling & Development Dr Munita Dunn-Coetzee.