‘Childbearing places women academics on the back foot’

According to University of Cape Town vice-chancellor Dr Max Price one of the greatest challenges facing women academics is career-delaying child rearing.

Price was speaking at a hearing into gender transformation in higher institutions of learning by the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) on Wednesday‚ probing “sex-for-marks” and other gender-based abuse.

He told the commission that amongst UCT’s support staff women were in the majority. Where gender transformation figures are more bleak‚ however‚ is among academic staff.

“Many women do take a few years out to have children – more so than men. To become a professor we do have some standard expectations. I don’t think women want to be appointed as professors with a lesser level of achievement than men professors do.

“If the requirement is‚ for example‚ that you should have supervised a certain number of PhDs … it does therefore take some time. If you interrupt your career for five or ten years or more‚ then there is a delay‚” Price said.

Price said most senior academics at UCT are men because men are often able to climb the ladder faster.

In senior management things look up for gender transformation at the university. Currently there are 29 positions available in senior leadership – of these 59% are filled by women.

Price said the university has programmes in place to stimulate gender transformation among staff.

The commission’s Linda Nyati‚ however‚ questioned why the university’s equity policies did not target designated groups for transformation like women and black staff.

Price said that black staff had criticised the university for stigmatising them with policies directed specifically at their advancement.

The commission has criticised universities for putting ample programmes in place for gender transformation with little being done to implement them.

Price said he was confident that UCT had pioneered frameworks that may set the standard for transformation policies in the country.

The CGE hearings in Johannesburg continue on Thursday with the University of the Witwatersrand and the University of KwaZulu-Natal in attendance.

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