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Women in administration of higher education

IN THE field of education in India, one finds very few women at top levels such as Vice Chancellor/Director of Public Instruction/Principal/Dean, even though there are a large number of women who choose teaching as their profession.

The reality is that women's participation at decision-making levels in any field is dismally low, considering the fact that they constitute almost half the population. The picture is the same in educational administration. It is said women constitute 30 per cent of the teaching profession. In 1984-85, in higher education there were 28 women to every hundred men. (Of course, this is an improvement over the 1950-51 figure of nine per hundred!) Among university teachers, there is one woman for every ten male teachers; in research, the ratio is 1:9; in professional colleges the ratio is 1:6 and in general education 1:4. Women lecturers in affiliated colleges are around 21 per cent while it is 11.6 per cent in university departments. It is reported that there are only two women for every hundred men who are university professors. At any point of time there may not be more than 10 to 15 Vice-Chancellors, (including those heading the nine women's universities), in the existing more than 230 universities in the country. In 1992, there were seven women and 98 men as Vice Chancellors, two women and 28 men as Pro-Vice Chancellors, two women and 100 men as Registrars, and one woman and nine men as Directors of Continuing and Adult Education. As academic heads, 57 women and 603 men were Deans.

Although women have gained access to higher education all over the world, the scenario is the same, namely that their numbers are still far below men in the management of institutions of higher education. That women are lagging behind men in taking to educational opportunities possibly contributes to the fact that women are not visible in large numbers at higher echelons in educational administration. But there are many within the profession who are very capable and could wear the mantle of leadership easily. Yet these women do not seem to aspire for it.

As a matter of fact, most professionals, men or women, such as scientists and doctors, do not like administration because it is mundane and routine. But, generalisation notwithstanding, there is greater love among men for the power and influence that go with administrative posts. The "power structure" in institutions quite often inhibits women. Men say that it is women themselves who deny themselves the chances for upward mobility. This is referred to as `psychosocial' causes, which could include the behavioural traits and skills of women. Perhaps their attachment to familial duties, whether shared or not by their men folk, makes them less mobile and unwilling for transfers or changes of any kind. Maybe the situation in the home is such that women are fearful of their men folk/in-laws, and they may not want to appear as ambitious or desiring to rise in their career. Gender stereotypes and the patriarchal ethos possibly govern their thinking.

The reason why women should be in administrative positions in higher educational institutions and universities as in all spheres of activity is that they have to be treated like any human being whose rights must be upheld and whose aspirations must be given opportunities for fulfilment — this for ensuring a just and equitable society. Secondly, everywhere, in every activity of decision making, women's viewpoints and experience, as much as men's, need to be captured for the decision to be balanced and complete. We must ensure that policies are drawn up through `women's eyes' also, which is not the case now.

Gender-friendly environment

It is said that one of the best ways of attracting women to higher posts is to create a gender friendly environment in which sexual harassment has little or no chance to prevail. Gender sensitisation in every profession is urgent and necessary for men and women separately and in groups where they are together, so that existing practices can be reviewed by them and discussed for improvement.

As a matter of policy, a decision needs to be taken at the highest decision-making level such as the Government, the U.G.C., the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), the universities, and colleges, that the representation of women at all levels of policy making bodies and committees should be increased.

To create a pro-woman atmosphere, the rules and regulations of an institution have also to be looked at to see whether there are any provisions needing revision or which must be made more woman-friendly. Provision of support services for the care of children in the premises of the institution or close by, transport, housing, and single women accommodation, also need to be taken up on a priority basis.

Finally, the capability of women in `management' needs to be strengthened through leadership training and imparting of administrative skills. In addition to enhancement of knowledge about "management" and higher education including the need to have a vision and taking people along and working alongside men with confidence and belief in oneself and one's capacities, there have to be inputs on behavioural traits to be fostered for leading, working in a team, reacting to a crisis, becoming a catalyst for change, and rising to any occasion.


Former Chief Secretary, the Government of Kerala

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