SA universities’ professoriate needs more women but fares adequately by global standards

Arguably, there are too few women professors at local universities – but the picture looks even bleaker at some overseas institutions.

Only 13.7% of the professors at Nagoya University in Japan are women and 15.4% at Sao Paulo University in Brazil. In comparison, at least one out of three professors at several South African universities are women.

According to figures supplied to the Mail & Guardian by eight of the country’s 26 universities, 275 out of the 866 full professors and 329 out of the 817 associate professors are women.

The number of women in the professoriate at Unisa is encouraging. At least 107 of the 317 full professors and 125 of the 246 associate professors are women.

Figures for women who are full professors and associate professors at some of the other institutions include:


  • University of the Western Cape (UWC): 48 and 48;
  • Stellenbosch University: 60 and 62;
  • North-West University: 47 and 73;
  • Vaal University of Technology (VUT): 2 and 0;
  • Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT): 9 and 17;
  • Tshwane University of Technology (TUT): 2 and 2; and
  • Sol Plaatje University: 0 and 2.

Female representation in executive management teams at some universities also show signs of improvement. At UWC, there are an equal number of men and women on the executive management committee.

Sol Plaatje University’s vice-chancellor, Professor Yunus Ballim, said there were three members on his executive team but none were women.

“We are insistent that our first deputy vice-chancellor appointee be a woman. We are starting with development initiatives to promote women academics,” he said.

At CPUT, three of the nine members of the executive management committee are women, as are 21 of the 76 members of the senior leadership at the University of Cape Town.

Female executives at other institutions include:

  • Three of the 10 at North West University;
  • Three of the seven at Unisa;
  • One of the 11 at TUT;
  • Three of the 17 at VUT; and
  • Seven of the 16 at Stellenbosch University.

North-West University said the equitable representation of women was being guided by its approved employment equity plan.

Stellenbosch University said it ensures that set targets for the professoriate and management level are included in the workforce plans of all faculties and divisions.

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