International Women's Day is just weeks away and the theme for this year's campaign is 'gender parity'. It's shocking that in the 21st century we still do not have gender parity across the workplace or society as a whole, so I thought it timely to write about how we can help address this.
I believe that education is the key to ensuring women have equal opportunities to men. Education raises aspirations, opens doors, motivates and inspires people to succeed. Gender parity in education is therefore critical and must be accomplished.
In the UK we are fortunate that education is available to all, but this is not the case in many countries around the world, with many young women and girls denied even a basic education. Access to higher education, especially for women is even more limited in some places.
According to the UK Higher Education Statistics Agency in the academic year 2014/15 there were over 1.2 million women studying in higher education, compared to just under 1 million men. We seem to be achieving some balance here and should be proud to set an example to the rest of the world.
Female leadership and empowering women is also a subject close to my heart and something I've driven in my role as Vice-Chancellor at Bath Spa University. The University has a long history of female leaders - including the formidable Miss Dawson who in 1948 founded the teacher training college that was to become part of Bath Spa University. However, when I arrived at Bath Spa University in 2012 there was just one female professor. In my first year I appointed 20 new professors, of whom 12 were women which immediately addressed a gender imbalance and provided strong female role models for staff and students.
The gender pay gap regularly features in the media and is another factor holding back gender parity. Our approach to ensuring a gender balance at Bath Spa has resulted in a significant reduction in the number of men being paid more than women. By 2014/15 our pay gap had decreased to 15 per cent which compares favourably to the sector benchmark of 19 per cent. Work is also ongoing to increase the number of women in senior roles at the University and I have no doubt our pay gap will continue to decrease over the coming years.
In order to tackle this hugely important issue, we need to speak up and take action. Everyone can play their part in addressing the gender gap and gender parity can be achieved by employing more women across all sectors, standing up and calling for gender-balanced leadership, providing access to education and inspiring women across the world to pursue higher education.
We must work together to strive for equality. #PledgeForParity