A first of its kind, a 2-day National Women Vice Chancellors’ Conference organized by Association of Indian Universities (AIU) is playing a rare platform on July 17-18 for discussing the leadership roles of women academic leaders in higher education in India. There are 75 women vice-chancellors in India, which is just over 20% and this event is an effort to look into the challenges and opportunities for women leaders in higher education. The conference being held in collaboration with Shiksha Sanskriti Uttan Nyas, Delhi is hosted by ILLM, University Gurugam.
The conference marks an important milestone in bringing the much-needed focus and limelight on women in leadership role in academia. Six sessions on: Gender equity and inclusivity in higher education; Roles and Contribution of Women in Promoting Higher Education; Enabling Women For Tech Enabled Higher Education including AI; International Perspective On Women Leadership; Role Of Women in Creating a Humane Society; And Skilling Women to Create Atma Nirbhar Bharat, are part of deliberations among delegates comprising vice-chancellors, educators, administrators and members of academic bodies.
The plenary of the conference saw a passionate keynote from Dr Kiran Bedi (IPS), former Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry and founder of Navjyoti and India Vision Foundation, who exhorted the women vice-chancellors in the country to seriously think on having a work-life management course in their universities. Dr Bedi was referring to bright pipeline of girl students, who year-on-year star in institutions but are subsequently not seen to progress on strength of their potential and talent due to the real world of marriage and home. “Collate data for past 10 years and see where your alumni bright boys and girls are. Through your efforts we can not only get insights and evidences but an international paper on this issue,” she added.
Dr Bedi also spoke about leadership role in utilizing the vast youth resources (students) by the university leaders and also spoke about having parent teacher meetings like in schools with the family of the students to handhold girl students. She spoke highly of the achievement of Lieutenant General Dr. Madhuri Rajeev Kanitkar as the new Vice Chancellor of the Maharashtra University of Health Sciences, Nashik in past two years. Listing organization culture of providing crèches and day care an enabler, she urged the gathering to think of policy imperatives and share blue prints with the government to address the issues that are holding back women power in leadership roles.
Earlier Dr Pankaj Mittal, Secretary General, AIU, shared statistics of women vice chancellors in the country and said that institutions of national importance and private universities both have the least number of women VCs in the country. In all there are 75 VCs from 1070 universities despite GER of girls being 0.25% higher than boys. She said that the conference will come up with a set of recommendations from the two-day deliberations and share it with the Prime Minister.
Prof (Dr) Suhitra Paul, Vice-chancellor of West Bengal University of Health Sciences, during an open session raised the issue of mental well-being and how girls and boys handled mental health issue differently. She said that girls suffer more from anxiety and other disorders and even share about it still they are not able to handle it. “Mental well-being of women is an important dimension and we all need to work on it as women deserve to be happy in whatever role,’ she added.