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Cape Town -
Gender equality is still some way off, Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor said on Wednesday.
The Constitution enjoined all to work towards attaining a number of rights for the people, one of which was gender equality, she told the Higher Education Resource Services Academy (HERS-SA) in Cape Town.
“While there are various legislative and policy measures and institutional mechanisms intended to give effect to our Constitution, we still have some way to go in creating a society in which women (and other groups) are not impeded in their professional progress by gender discrimination,” she said.
Much work remained to be done in the higher education sector.
The traditional social stereotypes that influenced women's progress in higher education remained in place and required dedicated and strategic attention.
“Decades of struggle by women intellectuals have shown that focused and well-crafted joint strategies are the best means of reversing the discrimination that continues to be a part of higher education,” Pandor said.
The overall enrolment and graduation numbers for women had been steadily increasing over the past 10 years.
For instance, at undergraduate and honours levels, women were in a clear majority for total enrolments and graduations.
In 2009, six out of 10 of all enrolled undergraduate students and six out of 10 of all honours students were women, while during the same period women made up six out of 10 of all first degree graduates and six out of 10 of all honours graduates.
Between 2001 and 2009 women enrolments at PhD level increased from three to four out of 10 of total enrolments, and women graduations increased from three to four.
“What is worrying, though, is that while the number of women at Master's and PhD levels continues to increase, women are still in the minority in terms of both enrolments and graduations (at this level),” she said.
Regarding the number of black women across the board, over the past five years black women had been the majority - ahead of white women - in enrolments and graduations at both undergraduate and honours levels.
Yet, the number of women declined as one moved up the academic ladder.
“So, the issue of advancement of gender equity for women working in academia cannot be isolated from the bigger issue of the entire human capital pipeline.”
The task of building a more equal society through targeted interventions aimed at gender equality was a daunting one and, in addition to the legislative and institutional mechanisms in place, there was a need for all role players to ensure that more women were aware of these opportunities so that more women could take advantage of them.
This would require all role players to intensify their advocacy efforts.
“A double agenda confronts all of us. Developing women in academia for leadership today, and developing young women for leadership in higher education in future,” Pandor said. - Sapa