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French government seeks gender parity in universities

Ministers and university leaders in France are calling on institutions to do more to achieve gender parity.

The three groups representing France’s higher education leaders, including the Conference of University Presidents, have signed up to a charter produced by the government outlining steps towards ensuring greater equality at every level of higher education.

While non-binding, the push for parity will feature in the government’s higher education and research bill, due to be published in March.

According to the government, women make up the majority of students at universities but represent just 24 per cent of professors and 27 per cent of university boards. The number of women at the head of institutions has fallen from 16 in 2008 to eight in 2012.

The charter calls on institutions to consider parity as part of any university project and to publish annual statistics about gender distribution and progress. They should strive to achieve gender balance at every level of employment and ensure that maternity leave does not have a negative effect on career progression.

A representative should be appointed at each institution to lead on putting the charter into actions. The government says that funding will be provided to support the implementation of its aims. Neutral representatives should also be appointed to deal with complaints about harassment and staff should be educated on their rights and responsibilities in this area.

When it comes to research, the charter says institutions should encourage research on gender difference in France and in Europe.

To monitor student experience, institutions should systematically record information about gender differences in applications, success rates and employment of students and graduates.