The Commission of Gender Equality has identified an under-representation of senior black women in high- level positions at Stellenbosch University.

Cape Town - The Commission of Gender Equality has identified an under-representation of senior black women in high-level positions at Stellenbosch University.

The university appeared before the commission earlier this week together with the University of the Free State to discuss how far gender transformation had come and what challenges it still faced.

Commissioner Nomisi Bata said the body’s role was to ensure that gender equality did not remain a pipe-dream at the institution but a reality for all.

“Our findings are that the top management at this institution and the top decision-makers are white and you would get the fact that the majority are white and if there are women, you might say males are 55 or females are 45, but those figures are not desegregated because you find that those females are also white,” she said.

“You would get about 10% with 20% being the most of African people who find their way into the positions of chancellors, vice-chancellors or deans of faculties, or professorship and then somewhere midway you find a flood of black people,” she said.

“The question I kept asking was: ‘We were brought up in the same household, we went to the same schools, universities with men, we got the same qualifications but what is this capacity that you need in order for a woman to get a leadership position?’”

The institution acknowledged that although staff numbers were positive in terms of gender equality, women were still under-represented in senior positions, both in academics and management levels.

On the issue of the safety of students in institutions, Bata said there was still a concern as a culture of abuse was still prevalent at universities.

Senior director for student affairs Dr Birgit Schreiber said SU had taken measures to address gender violence after a task team she headed concluded its investigation.

These included monitoring, training of students and staff including management, as well as support for gender advocacy groups and individuals.

According to the presentation, in the period of 2016/2017, seven “official” complaints of sexual harassment were reported and four panels were convened and resulted in the issuing of warnings.

Another 14 “unofficial” complaints were registered.

Last year, the university noted four cases of sexual assault/rape reported to campus security which resulted in three arrests and disciplinary action taken against two male students.

But Bata has condemned the seemingly lacklustre attitudes by a number of institutions with regard to addressing sexual violence on campuses.

“One has to ask how, after 22 years that in South Africa, which has a high prevalence on the scourge of violence against women and young people in universities."

“We have seen headlines on rapes in universities, sexual abuse."

“We asked how on earth are there no adopted sexual harassment policies or are they constitutionally correct in terms of section 9 that embraces people of all races, sexual orientation?"

“Safety is lacking in many institutions, where despite protests by students against gender-based violence, much has not moved to make sure students are secure,” Bata said.

“It’s widespread in these institutions, security is an issue. And you find that students don’t get residences within the precinct of the campus, they have to go at night and travel in taxies that are not safe because if you get into a taxi in South Africa, there is someone who is going to try something.

“You are not making it safe for your students with the way your residences are structured; the vice-chancellor promised us that they are revising their 2018 criteria because it is based on academic excellence and where you come from.

“But you find that in many in of these institutions, black students will go and live in Langa or Gugulethu because some of them can’t afford to live closer and it is still a question of inequality and poverty that underpins all of this,” Bata added.

“We want a change of mindset from universities, we want change and we will not stop monitoring and evaluating them until the desired results are achieved.”

Weekend Argus