SDG5 Gender Equality
HKU has a relatively balanced enrolment ratio of female to male students at 1.2:1 with completion rates of undergraduates female at 97.5% and male at 93.8%. However HKU has a significant gender imbalance in its senior ranks. During this reporting period, HKU has taken major steps to address this issue.
In 2015, Dr. Sarah Aiston from the Faculty of Education conducted an important research about women in academia in Hong Kong and abroad, and a task force set up in the Faculty of Arts carried out a groundbreaking review on gender and diversity within the faculty. The results of these two initiatives propelled the senior management to make HKU the first in the world to launch the United Nations’ HeForShe initiative to drive gender equality and empowerment of women. The leadership at HKU has also decided to scale up the recommendations made by the Arts task force campus-wide. The recommendations were detailed in the ‘Gender-Parity and Family-Friendly Measures’ discussion paper for wider consultation and action in 2016.
Since then, the proportion of women at the dean level or above has increased from 9% to 20%, female representation was made compulsory on all appointment and promotion panels, maternity and paternity leave conditions have improved, data collection systems for gender and diversity have been enhanced, and breastfeeding facilities were established on campus. Awareness building initiatives such as lunch seminars for women academics, gender parity forums and meetings were also held. Additionally, funding has been earmarked for the Women’s Studies Research Centre for gender and diversity research.
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of courses and research.
papers (in 2017)
Proportion of first degree graduates who were female by subject
All subject areas
Arts & Humanities/
Proportion of women in senior academic positions
In 2015, HKU was the first university in the world to launch the United Nation Women’s HeForShe initiative to create a solidarity movement for gender equality. The UN HeForShe 10x10x10 Impact Group is made up of 10 Heads of State, 10 CEOs of global corporations and 10 University Presidents. Professor Peter Mathieson, HKU's President and Vice-Chancellor at the time, is one of the members. To reduce barriers against social mobility and promote gender equity in access to higher education in less developed countries, the HeForShe IMPACT Champion Scholarships was established for students from economically deprived background to receive quality education at HKU. The campaign also gave rise to various initiatives such as seminars and TEDx conferences that empowered different individuals to get involved in the cause. An “Ideathon” facilitated by Elizabeth Nyamayaro, the Head of HeForShe at UN Women, was held in August 2016 in which solutions were ideated and peer-voted by students.
The Equal Opportunity Unit was established to create, promote and maintain an environment for staff and students that is free of discrimination and harassment of any kind. This includes discrimination based on sex, disability, pregnancy, sexual orientation, race, marital and family status. It is supported and complemented by the “Whistle-blower” policy, which provides a structure of governance and accountability in order to encourage staff and students to report any activities or behaviour that would be deemed to threaten equity in opportunities.
To support mothers in their professional endeavours, the school has in place maternity and paternity leave to provide time off for its staff to meet family needs. Breastfeeding rooms are also available on campus to make it easier for mothers to continue their work or schooling while taking care of their children.
Furthermore, HKU vows to maintain a safe campus for women and all – one that is free of sexual harassment or discrimination. An online course on sexual harassment is available to all students to help prevent sexual harassment and educate students on their rights.