Improving diversity in Higher Education Leadership

Friday, 23 May 2014

Janet Beer May 2014

A new report from the Centre for Diversity Policy Research and Practice challenges the Higher Education sector to improve gender balance in senior roles.

Entitled Gender and Higher Education Leadership: Researching the Careers of Top Management Programme Alumni, the report calls on universities to set “aspirational targets and put action plans in place”.

The research study, which was led by Professor Simonetta Manfredi proposes a code of practice for recruitment firms to help address inequality.

Professor Janet Beer, Vice-Chancellor of Oxford Brookes and chair of the research project’s steering group, presented some of the report’s findings at Going Global, a conference hosted by the British Council in Miami at the end of April. A research launch event and workshop was held on Wednesday (21 May 2014).

In the report’s foreword, Professor Beer notes: “This research was conducted with women and men who occupy some of the most senior roles in British higher education. It gives us hard evidence to support the contention that it is more difficult for women to be appointed as the chief executive in our universities and colleges.

“Whilst it is true that some of the participants – both men and women – are clear that they do not wish to be considered for the ‘top job’, of those who do, women are less likely to fulfil their ambitions and indeed, their potential.

“Based on the research, the report makes significant recommendations, some of which are already under discussion in a variety of sector bodies, but which need to be rapidly progressed.”

Oxford Brookes’ Centre for Diversity Policy Research and Practice, which is focused on influencing policy and developing research related to equality, celebrates its tenth year this month.

Centre Director Professor Simonetta Manfredi, commented: “Over the past ten years, a tremendous amount of work has taken place through our research, knowledge exchange and events.

“The wide-ranging work of the Centre has helped to improve understanding and learning about diversity and played a key role in the development of policy. Our latest report on improving the gender balance in Higher Education senior roles makes a number of significant recommendations which we hope to see taken up by the sector.

“The Centre brings together academic and management expertise and we look forward to further influencing this crucial area in the years to come.”

The Centre specialises in research and knowledge transfer in the area of equality and diversity in the workplace.

Key research areas for the Centre include:

  • Age diversity
  • Gender equality with a focus on academic careers
  • Equality and diversity issues within organisations
  • Work-life balance
  • Migration and equality challenges
  • Religion and belief.

The Centre also organises and supports conferences, seminars and workshops on a wide range of equality-related subjects. These have included the application of the 2010 Equality Act to the workplace, challenges of ‘active ageing’ for the equality law and for the workplace and corporate social responsibility.

In 2011, the Centre supported a major conference, led by the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford Brookes University, Professor Janet Beer, on Women and Leadership which has led to a series of legacy events. This has included talks by Director of Liberty and Oxford Brookes Chancellor Shami Chakrabarti and Vice-President of the EU Viviane Reding.

The Centre’s most recent event took place earlier this month, entitled Business and leadership: Where are the women? An expert panel looked at the issue of quotas, the roles of business schools and how entrepreneurism could provide an alternative for women to realise their full-potentials. Pictures from the events are available to view on this page.

Details of the Centre’s projects and publications and information on how you can get involved with their work is available online.