Feridun Hamdullahpur, president and vice chancellor of the University of Waterloo, attended the HeForShe IMPACT 10x10x10 conference and parity report launch Sept. 20 2016 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. Hamdullahpur, along with the other HeforShe advocates and education leaders reported their current implementations and future plans towards promoting gender equality at their respective universities.
HeForShe IMPACT 10x10x10, launched in 2015, aims to promote gender equality across major industries and institutions by attaining influential national leaders, executives, and educational leaders to create change and gender equality within their organizations. This movement should impact surrounding communities and various other institutions towards a more gender-equal mindset.
The conference began with an animated video summarizing how the organization came to fruition. The short video also emphasized how equality impacts all genders, and that by enforcing and spreading knowledge about gender equality, we will be able to live in a more gender-equal society in the near future.
Next, the director general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Irina Bokova, made a remark about how most of the participants in the conference were men, and that she would like to see more women in the future. She then went on to discuss the sustainable development goals, and her vision for girls to be prosperous in academia as well as in their future careers.
Emma Watson, UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador and British actress, took the stage next. She talked about how her university experience made her into who she is today. In contrast, she elaborated that universities have tendencies to perpetuate stereotypes especially when it comes to what women can study, and the diluted community of women in leadership roles. She concluded with, “students should leave university believing in, striving for, and expecting societies of true equality.”
University leaders spoke next about their current initiatives towards producing a more gender-equal institution, especially in the STEM fields, which are noticeably male dominated. They have noticed the difficulties that women face in different aspects of their lives that men don’t face. John J. DeGioia, president of Georgetown University in the United States, mentioned some of the ways he has gone about enforcing gender equality on campus such as the Georgetown Women’s Alliance. Paul Boyle, president and vice chancellor of the University of Leicester in the UK, said he wants to increase the amount of women that have professor roles at the university; and Samuel Stanley, president of Stony Brook University in the United States aims to remove obstacles for women from academia, research, and medicine.
Hamdullahpur said his goals are to increase the amount of females in the STEM disciplines, in terms of senior academic roles, faculty positions, and students.
“We believe that if we do this now, it will have long term benefits later on. This is the only way, we believe, to increase the share of women in those disciplines that will lead into a faculty position, and they will see that their career will be established better in those areas if we invest now.”
Hamdullahpur said he has been implementing his goal by creating the HeForShe IMPACT scholarships which began in 2015.
“We committed to $288,000, that is four years for every student so that we could put in place ongoing efforts to achieve comprehensive, long term, sustainable gender equality at our institutions.”
Six female individuals entering the STEM fields were awarded this scholarship in September 2015. The six winners were Anya Forestell studying physics and astronomy; Sally Hui studying mechatronics engineering; Sarah Muth pursuing mathematical physics; Joyce (Anqi) Yang who is in the computer science program; Jenny Ma in computer engineering; and Zhou Yu studying mathematics.