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The case for gender parity in student leadership
By Lungelo Magwaza – 2 September 2021
The Vaal University of Technology’s (VUT) recently hosted a webinar on 18 August 2021 which focused on the issue of gender parity, with Dr Sibusiso Mchunu, Executive Director at SSS being the keynote speaker. Ms Maureen Motsukunyane, Director: CHED was pleased with the success of the webinar and she plans to have continuous similar engagements with all VUT Stakeholders in order to address the pressing gender issues at VUT.
Ms Motsukunyane opened the session with a brief overview about the purpose of the webinar series. When he began his presentation, Dr Mchunu said that he was honoured to be the one who spoke on the topic pertaining to student life, development, and leadership. He commenced his presentation by touching on woman’s month and its importance, and he went on to provide his understanding of gender stereotyping which tends to perpetuate inequalities.
He further addressed the issues of male masculinity, of which can be degenerated to toxic masculinity, shaped by class, race, culture and other factors. He alluded to the fact that extreme forms of masculine traits can be linked to aggression, violence, bullying and murder. The debate about gender parity also brings into focus the debate about democracy, because South Africa is in a transitional phase and so are the Higher Education Institutions (HEI). Female students tend to be in a majority in most Higher Educations Institutions. It, therefore, makes sense that the representation of both male and female students in student leadership should be comparable. The benefits of gender parity in having women as leaders and decision makers at all levels are critical to advancing gender justice and gender equality. This is because when women are represented meaningfully and engaged in leadership bodies, rulings and decisions are more likely to be inclusive, representative, and take diverse views into account, which in turn benefits politics, business, and communities.
Dr Mchunu concluded by providing a way forward in combating these gender parity issue, stating that we should establish policies and practices that promote gender parity, confront socio-cultural drivers of gender equality. Further, we should enable and support women’s organisations and movements and promote practices that are in line with gender parity in leadership structures. Student Support Services is in the process of developing a policy that deals with issues pertaining to GBV, the LGBQT community, unfair discrimination, gender parity, masculinity, and sexual harassment within the VUT community.