Gender equity and equality in higher education leadership: 'what's social justice and substantive equality got to do with it?'
The issue of women's under-representation in senior decision – making and leadership positions in organizations has been well-documented and continues to be a key area in gender and leadership research in all sectors of education including higher education. White (2003: 46) asserts that 'academic women at senior levels in universities have not achieved a critical mass, despite the existence of equity programmes in universities for the last few decades'. Reports, research articles and newspaper articles confirm this phenomenon. For instance, Alison Moodie, writing in the 2010 issue of Advancing women in higher Education remarked that 'Women academics are still losing out to male colleagues at South African universities and their situation hasn't changed much – Others point out that universities 'remain a bastion of male power and privilege' ( The 1990 Report of the Hansard Society Commission on Women at the Top). Gender equity and equality in higher education management have been in the spotlight in South Africa in recent years. Universities everywhere are under a lot of pressure to transform in all aspects of their business. Although great strides have been made by universities to improve gender representation at senior management, middle management and professorial levels, representation of women in these positions at many universities is still disproportionately low. This is indicative of a gender leadership gap in higher education, and concomitantly, a loss in potential contribution to the growth and development of the higher education sector. Underrepresentation of the female component of the academic society in leadership means underutilization of available talent and intellectual capital. It also implies the perpetuation of gender inequality in higher education. It is a serious indictment on humankind that in a world predominantly populated by women, only a few of them are leaders in political, corporate and educational organizations; this despite equal opportunities legislation in various countries including South Africa. This begs the question: Can gender equality, but more importantly, gender equity – ever be really achieved? Perhaps the questions that need to be posed are: What are the main factors in gender equity and equality in higher education leadership? And What are the implications of a commitment to social justice and substantive equality in the struggle to achieve gender equality and equity in higher education leadership?