5 Best Universities Tackling Gender Equality Around the World

Here are the top universities globally fighting gender inequality through research, policies, recruitment practices, degrees available, activism and more.

Significant progress has been made toward gender equality in recent years. However, gender inequality persists. Even though women constitute a higher portion of enrollment into undergraduate and graduate levels in universities, gender inequality still exists in other aspects of academia and work.

Women continue to be underrepresented in doctoral programs and the job market. Gender power relations remain unequal and women still face various forms of discrimination. Gender-based stereotyping, bias and violence have persisted because of the relentlessness of the rigid cultural gender roles and a failure to normalize gender equality.

The culture of sexual discrimination and harassment is still rife in universities and the workplace. Still, it is usually inexplicit because these behaviors are rationalized, or victims are silenced.  In addition to harming women’s self-worth and robbing them of opportunities, this culture also leads to negative experiences among men.

Throughout the world, women’s voices are unheard, their work is devalued and their positions are unequal to men’s, be it in the home, nationally or globally. Women are the most underpaid group, lack equal access to decent work, bear a disproportionate burden of unpaid care work and have longer workdays than men.

Organizations around the world, including universities, are taking steps to tackle this problem of gender inequality. This article ranks universities based on their efforts toward promoting gender equality through their research, institutional policies, recruitment practices, enrolment of first-generation female students and more.

The following are the top five universities tackling gender equality around the world.

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1. Western Sydney University

The staff and students at Western Sydney University have access to various resources to help them gain equal opportunities across various aspects of academia and work. The Science in Gender Equity (SAGE) Program recently awarded the university the esteemed Athena Swann Bronze.

The university is currently implementing an all-inclusive four-year Athena SWAN Action Plan, which it developed for the period 2019–2023. The institution bases the Action Plan on a thorough self-assessment of systems, organizational data, culture and structure. Among the benefits of this plan is the provision of STEM opportunities for women and trans students and staff.

Every year, the university reports its gender equality policy, data and strategy framework to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency. For 17 years, Western Sydney University has received recognition as the Employer of Choice for Gender Equality.

In 2015, the Vice-Chancellor established the Vice-Chancellor’s Gender Equality Committee (GEC) as the institution’s advisory body on gender equality. The committee provides guidance on gender equity practice, strategy and policy with the aim of supporting and cultivating gender parity throughout the institution.

Additionally, the university operates a Vice-Chancellor Gender Equity Fund, which provides the institution’s employees with opportunities to apply for small grants to promote workplace inclusion and facilitate initiatives for gender equality.

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2. Federal University of São Paulo (UNIFESP)

The Federal University of São Paulo (UNIFESP) has established a gender research and studies program as part of its efforts toward advancing gender equality. The success of this pioneering initiative places the university among the best universities championing gender equality around the world.

UNIFESP has in place several measures that aim to facilitate a positive shift in the gender-related attitudes and practices within the institution. The university has taken steps to raise students’ awareness of the centrality of gender parity by training student associations and codifying principles of gender equality in its policies.

Additionally, the university provides students and staff with guidance and resources to uphold an institutional culture of gender equality. It continually monitors incidents of sexual harassment, gender discrimination and sexual violence. Each department in the university has gender-equality advisors to help staff and students navigate the issue appropriately.

Hiring practices at UNIFESP reflect the institution’s commitment to fighting gender inequality. Likewise, the female students at the university have access to training workshops for developing crucial career skills, such as wage negotiation, assertiveness, public speaking and work-life balance.

Women make up an increasing portion of the institution’s staff and student body. UNIFESP has a gender-balanced selection committee for hiring full-time faculty. The university requires its academic coordinators to take into account gender parity when hiring temporary teaching staff.

The university combats the gender disparity in work-life balance by limiting work-related emails to working hours and encouraging male staff to take their paternity leave.

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3. McMaster University

The university’s Faculty of Health Sciences established the Gender & Health Education Initiative to help develop health science education resources that assess how gender affects health and healthcare delivery.

This multi-faceted initiative provides students and staff with crucial opportunities. Every two years, the initiative runs a competition where participants who develop health and gender education receive grants. It also provides The Climb, a resource that helps female students and staff to advance their carrier in medical academia.

Additionally, McMaster is among the best colleges tackling gender inequality because it has an interdisciplinary program called the Gender & Social Justice program, which accepts students from diverse backgrounds who want to study feminism, sexuality and gender. The students receive funding that includes scholarship money and teaching assistantship.

Knowledge in Action, the program’s core course, involves partnerships with local community organizations. The university hosts a research symposium where local, national and internal activists and scholars converge for seminars and lectures. This exciting program is small enough to provide everyone with personal mentoring.

McMaster has an Equity and Inclusion Office (EIO) for which the promotion of gender equality is one of its roles. It provides various programs and services, including Human Rights and Dispute Resolution (HDHR), Inclusion and Anti-Racism Education, Accessibility Program and Sexual Violence and Prevention Response.

The HDHR program advises students and staff on issues related to human rights. It’s the Intake Office for formal complaints about sexual violence, harassment and discrimination. The program oversees investigations of complaints and facilitates alternate dispute resolution practices.

Other intake offices are Faculty of Health Sciences Professionalism Office (all Community Members in the Faculty of Health Sciences), Student Support & Case Management (students) and Employee/Labour Relations (faculty and staff).

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4. IPB University Indonesia

IPB University Indonesia is implementing policies that eliminate hurdles in recruiting and promoting of female researchers in the institution. It has made efforts to address gender imbalances at all levels of decision-making and emphasize the gender aspect of the university’s research programs.

The university has also established partnerships with various research organizations, funding agencies and other universities to nurture institutional and cultural change in gender attitudes through awards, performance agreements and charters. Additionally, IPB University Indonesia has committed itself to ensure women make up 40% of the committees responsible for recruitment and the management of research programs.

IPB creates incentives that encourage its faculties and departments to develop and revise strategies and action plans for mainstreaming gender equality. The university urges its faculties and departments to set guiding targets for achieving gender parity and monitors the implementation of its gender policies.

Another reason the IPB University Indonesia is among the best colleges tackling gender inequality is that it continually invests in resources for capacity-building and raising students’ awareness of the issue of gender equality.  The institution has taken major steps toward creating family-friendly and flexible working conditions for both its male and female employees.

The university carries out several activities that promote gender diversity and open pathways for women’s academic and career advancement. These include workshops in which leading industry researchers on gender equality present their findings of its benefits to the university’s administrators.

Some of the institution’s efforts to retain female staff include encouraging the involvement of female staff in union events, the inclusion of female speakers at these events and facilitating conversations about gender-related issues and diversity.

Related Read: A Student’s Guide to Promoting Gender Equality in Education (HS & Uni)

5. University of Dundee

The University of Dundee was awarded the Athena SWAN Bronze award in April 2014 as recognition for the institution’s efforts toward gender equality. For several years now, the university has been a part of the Athena SWAN Charter mark program from which it has received Bronze Awards — as have several of the university’s schools.

The institution signed for the 2015 Charter of the program. Two years later, in 2017, the University of Dundee received an award under the terms of this Charter. The award shows the commitment of the university to Athena SWAN and its contribution toward equality for women in academia within STEMM disciplines.

Furthermore, by holding the institutional award, the University of Dundee enables departments within the institution to apply for departmental Athena SWAN awards. The university has five STEMM schools, all of which hold awards. All four AHSSBL schools in the institution are taking steps to receive awards in the next cycle.

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Champions for Gender Equality

Gender inequality remains a major problem in today’s academic and work environments despite significant progress made toward attaining gender parity. The universities discussed here are among the leading organizations throughout the world at the forefront of ensuring women have equal access to decent work, receive fair wages, achieve work-life balance and are unburdened of disproportionate care work.

These institutions are achieving this through various efforts, such as the implementation of gender-balanced hiring practices, funding research on gender equality, raising awareness within the institution.

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Written By Goodwall Team
This article was written by the Goodwall team or by a contributor for publication on Goodwall. Goodwall is dedicated to helping students, entrepreneurs, and young professionals reach their full potential. We'll share thought-provoking and supportive articles on career advice, self-improvement, navigating the college landscape, climate action, social impact, and more. On the business side, we'll talk about SMB subjects related to community, diversity, talent acquisition, case studies, and enterprise.

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