Leadership and Management
Gender Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Education
Gender Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Education
Gender equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) are crucial aspects of building inclusive and thriving higher education institutions. Recognizing the significance of these principles, SEAMEO RIHED, in collaboration with the University of Oxford, organized a Curriculum Development Action Plan Workshop on 2-3 May 2023. The workshop aimed to strengthen leadership in gender EDI within higher education institutions across the Greater Mekong Subregion and Timor-Leste. Institutional leaders from partner universities in Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, Timor-Leste, and Vietnam actively participated in this initiative. Their role is to facilitate the implementation of the curriculum development action plan and subsequently report on the implementation experience within their respective university communities.
In this context, we will delve into the experiences and perspectives of the participating institutions, assess the current state of gender EDI in higher education, explore potential differences between Europe and Asia in manifesting gender EDI, identify challenges in achieving gender EDI, address common misconceptions, highlight key areas to monitor, and present recommendations for the higher education community regarding the implementation of gender EDI. This comprehensive analysis seeks to foster an understanding of the progress made, the existing gaps, and the way forward in promoting gender equity, diversity, and inclusion in higher education institutions.
Institutional leaders from partner universities in Southeast Asian countries participated in the workshop and will be responsible for implementing the curriculum development action plan and sharing their experiences with their respective university communities.
The participating institutions found the face-to-face workshop to be a transformative experience compared to previous virtual ones. It allowed for deeper engagement and a clearer understanding of the workshop’s purpose and motivation. This direct interaction and engagement enhanced their involvement and commitment to the project.
State of Gender EDI in Southeast Asian higher education
From the perspectives shared by the participating institutions, it is evident that the state of gender equity, diversity, and inclusion in higher education varies across the region. In Vietnam, for instance, Dr. Nguyen Thi Thuy from Hue University and Ms. Le Thi Thanh Hue from Thuyloi University rated their university’s inclusivity at 8 out of 10. They highlighted a decrease in discrimination, the presence of numerous student awareness activities, and adequate representation of female scientists. Similarly, Dr. Yuki Miyake from Mae Fah Luang University in Thailand rated gender EDI at 9 out of 10, emphasizing substantial efforts toward inclusivity in her workplace. These positive ratings indicate progress and reflect the dedication of these institutions in creating an inclusive environment.
However, challenges remain in other countries. Prof. Thi Thi Lwin from East Yangon University in Myanmar emphasized the lack of awareness on gender equity issues and rated inclusivity at 6 out of 10. This highlights the need for increased awareness and education to address gender disparities effectively. In Timor-Leste, Ms. Emilia Freitas Pereira from Dili Institute of Technology rated her country’s experience of gender equity and inclusion at 8 out of 10. While the prioritization of gender equity is evident in the composition of the parliament, practical implementation remains a challenge. These variations in perspectives underline the need for continued efforts to address gender disparities and create inclusive higher education systems.
Differences in the manifestation of Gender EDI
When examining the differences between European and Asian higher education systems in terms of gender EDI, Europe’s documented progress serves as an inspiration for Southeast Asian countries. Europe’s advancements provide valuable lessons for Asian institutions to learn from and adapt to their unique cultural contexts. The challenges and progress in gender EDI may differ due to cultural and historical factors. Asian countries, therefore, need to leverage creativity and develop region-specific strategies to achieve their own visions of equity, diversity, and inclusion.
One common misconception that needs to be addressed is the confusion between gender equality and sex education, as observed in Myanmar. This misconception stems from cultural taboos surrounding sex education and hinders open discussions about gender equality. To resolve this, it is crucial to initiate dialogue and education that clarifies the distinction between the two, fostering a better understanding of gender EDI concepts and principles.
Recommendations from the Higher Education Community
Monitoring the implementation of gender EDI in higher education requires attention to specific areas. Leadership plays a vital role in creating an inclusive environment, and it is essential to ensure equal pay for higher education practitioners regardless of gender. These measures promote a fair and equitable system that supports gender EDI objectives. By monitoring these areas, institutions can assess progress, identify gaps, and take appropriate measures to achieve meaningful change.
“These recommendations include embracing gender EDI as an opportunity for growth, creating spaces that foster diversity and inclusivity, working constructively by actively listening to diverse perspectives, and learning from the experiences and best practices of others. Additionally, scholarships for women and minority gender groups were identified as beneficial measures to increase equity and diversity in higher education communities”
In light of the workshop’s insights and experiences, Dr. Proochista Ariana, Principal Investigator of International Health and Tropical Medicine at the University of Oxford, provided valuable recommendations for the Southeast Asian higher education community. These recommendations include embracing gender EDI as an opportunity for growth, creating spaces that foster diversity and inclusivity, working constructively by actively listening to diverse perspectives, and learning from the experiences and best practices of others. Additionally, scholarships for women and minority gender groups were identified as beneficial measures to increase equity and diversity in higher education communities.
The efforts towards gender equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) in higher education are gaining momentum across Southeast Asia. The participating institutions in the SEAMEO RIHED and University of Oxford initiative have provided valuable insights into their experiences and perspectives on gender EDI. While some institutions have made significant strides in fostering inclusivity and reducing discrimination, others still face challenges in raising awareness and implementing policy priorities.
To further advance gender EDI, the higher education community, including government bodies, policy makers, university executives, and professors, must embrace recommendations put forth by experts. These recommendations include viewing gender EDI as an enriching process and opportunity for growth, creating spaces where diversity can flourish, actively listening to and including diverse voices, and fostering a culture of learning from others. By implementing these recommendations and embracing a comprehensive approach to gender EDI, higher education institutions can play a pivotal role in fostering inclusive learning environments and preparing future leaders who champion equality and diversity.
As Southeast Asian institutions continue their journey towards gender equity, diversity, and inclusion, collaborative efforts, ongoing evaluation, and a commitment to continuous improvement will pave the way for a brighter and more inclusive future in higher education.
CHRISTELLE AGUSTIN is a Programme Officer at SEAMEO RIHED.