Oxford’s gender equality work assessed by UN HeForShe campaign

The University has "leaned in" to the HeForShe campaign, reveals report, following high-profile anniversary event

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Oxford’s commitment to the UN Women organisation and the HeForShe campaign, as well as the effectiveness of its policies to equalise gender imbalances in the University, have been assessed in a new report.

It was released to coincide with an event celebrating the second anniversary of HeForShe, at which Emma Watson was a keynote speaker.

UN Women’s progress report — the ‘HeForShe IMPACT 10x10x10 Report’ — looks at the extent to which ten universities have kept their promises to work against gender inequality.

The 10x10x10 programme has seen commitment by ten heads of state, ten CEOs and ten university chancellors to take action on gender inequality.

“This is first baseline report for the universities,” explained Elizabeth Nyamayaro, senior advisor to the under-secretary-general of UN Women and the head of HeForShe. “These schools have agreed to annual reporting and transparency.”

In general, the report highlighted many positives for Oxford, but with plenty of room for improvement. The report writes that the University “has leaned into engagement with HeForShe, facilitating a university-wide conversation around gender equality.”

“Oxford is dedicated to leveraging its international reach to achieve equitable practices, and to work with peer institutions around the world,” it adds.

A central part of Oxford’s commitment to HeForShe is its pledge to increase female representation in senior leadership roles and 30% in professorial roles by 2020. Other efforts mentioned in the report include OUSU’s mandatory sexual consent workshops for Freshers, and Oxford’s inclusion in the ‘Good Lad’ campaign.

The UN report describes the “significant preparatory work” for tackling sexual violence within the city, and acknowledges the front-line responders to sexual violence within colleges.

Louise Richardson said, “addressing gender equality and ensuring that the University of Oxford is a safe and inclusive space for all our students has been among my main priorities since I became Vice-Chancellor.

“We have already made significant progress in improving the representation of women in academic roles and creating a culture free from violence.”

Perhaps a more familiar link between Oxford and HeForShe than the 10x10x10 programme is actress and UN ambassador Emma Watson, who has also been made a visiting fellow at LMH.

Speaking at an event to celebrate the second anniversary of HeForShe on Tuesday, Watson said that, “in the last two years [HeForShe] have shown me that nothing is impossible. And that’s why I ask you to recommit yourself to gender equality. I genuinely feel that we are closer to a gender-equal world.” She also noted that, “A university should be a place of refuge that takes action against all forms of violence… Students should leave university… expecting societies of equality.”

Watson spoke alongside a number of celebrities and dignitaries, including Justin Trudeau and Edgar Ramirez.

Work on gender inequality and sexual violence in Oxford is set to increase, with mandatory sexual consent workshops happening again this year, and the First Response app, which equips students with information to respond to sexual violence “as a survivor, friend or otherwise”.

 

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