CGED 2020 Biennial Report Executive Summary

 

1. In 2015, Dean Derek Collins organized a task force (GTF) to examine gender imbalances in the Faculty of Arts and propose remedies to eliminate bias and promote inclusion. Based on the proposals made by the task force, Dean Collins established the Committee on Gender Equality and Diversity (CGED) in 2016 with an expanded remit to include broader issues of diversity. From an initial focus on women and academic staff concerns, the committee has expanded to

include RPG, TPG, and UG students, alumni, non-tenure-track teachers, and non-academic staff. In addition, it has broadened its scope to include advocacy for other underrepresented groups within our academic community. The CGED produced its first report in 2018 and this follows as an update on the Committee’s activities.

 

2. The Committee has made progress in modifying policies, stimulating research, promoting gender equality in hiring, promotion, and tenure, as well as making the campus a safer and more inclusive environment for all. Over the past two years, we have witnessed the growth of the Faculty’s Gender Studies Programme, the recognition of our research on gender and diversity across disciplines, as well as the creativity of our students in recognizing issues of particular concern to our learners and graduates. Our knowledge exchange activities have created important links to the community, and our research seminars have showcased the cutting-edge scholarship of our colleagues.

 

3. This report highlights our achievements, spotlights areas in need of improvement, and proposes actions for progressive change. The two years covered by this report were challenging. The 2019 protests, the 2020 implementation of the National Security Law, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic impact all members of the university and Hong Kong community. The provision to grant an extra year for untenured faculty is immensely helpful, however, women and underrepresented groups experience additional hardships/complexities. The CGED takes these added pressures seriously and has addressed them with workshops, seminars, and the circulation of information via the Internet on topics highlighting the importance of considering gender and diversity in relation to issues such as academic freedom, health and wellness, caregiving under lockdown, and online pedagogy. As higher education changes, eliminating gender bias and creating a more inclusive and diverse environment for teaching and learning become even more urgent. The CGED faces these challenges with the support of our colleagues in the Faculty of Arts, and we are grateful for all the help our colleagues have provided as we continue our mission to further gender equality, diversity, and inclusion in the Faculty.

 

Highlights

 

4. The Committee was commended in the Report of the Academic Review of the Faculty of Arts. The Review was conducted from February 19 to 21, 2019. The CGED Chair and several members of the Committee met with the Review Panel on 19 February. It was the view of the Panel that the CGED is doing essential work at both the Faculty and the University levels. The CGED Chair, Gina Marchetti, and Convenor of the Women’s Studies Research Centre, Puja Kapai, also highlighted the measures put in place to enhance equity and diversity at HKU in an October 30, 2018, letter to the South China Morning Post.

 

5. Policy changes with regard to the gender make up of key committees within the Faculty are now in place, and the Faculty has continued to improve in terms of gender balance in hiring and leadership appointments. Leadership roles are evenly distributed, with 3 male and 3 female Department Chairs and 3 male and 2 female Associate Deans in 2020, and there have been small gains in the actual number of Assistant and full Professors. The Arts Faculty Board currently has a female Chair, Professor Nicole Huang. All of the 14 searches conducted during the period covered by the report included at least one female and one male among their members.

 

6. The Committee has strived to be inclusive in its membership and represent all Faculty staff. As of July 2020, it has members from all four Schools and three Centres, including the Centre for Applied English Studies, Centre of Buddhist Studies, and Centre for the Humanities and Medicine. It includes academic, academic-related, and administrative staff; undergraduate and postgraduate students; alumni; and co-opted members from other Faculties, including Education and Science, as well as from the Women’s Studies Research Centre, Common Core, and the HKU HeForSheForUs Student Society.

 

7. Members of the Committee have organised over 30 events during the period covered by the report, including 7 research seminars and 16 knowledge exchange activities. The majority of these events was open to the public and sought to reach out to a wider audience beyond the University. The Committee has also worked with other HKU partners such as the Center for the Study of Globalization and Cultures (CSGC), the Gender Studies Programme (GSP) and the Women’s Studies Research Centre (WSRC) on numerous gender- and diversity related events. The Student Affairs and Outreach Subcommittee has been active in organising student-centred events on issues such as menstruation and LGBTQ+ rights.

 

8. The Research Subcommittee has continued to work on showcasing gender and diversity research in the Faculty through its important research seminar series, online researcher directory, which will be further expanded with the launch of the standalone CGED website, and its continuing participation in Faculty orientation workshops for new staff and research postgraduate students. The Committee has actively expressed concerns over the funding of gender and diversity research, and is pleased to note that 7 projects with gender and diversity components were funded in the Hong Kong University Grants Committee’s (UGC) 2020-2021 General Research Fund (GRF) and Early Career Scheme (ECS) exercises.

 

9. Collaborations with external and internal partners were strengthened during the period covered by this report. Following its establishment in October 2018, the Knowledge Exchange and Outreach Subcommittee has worked with 18 external partners, both local and international. Highlights include being the Academic Partner for The Women’s Foundation’s #MakePeopleCount Campaign, which reached millions of people in Hong Kong, and several large-scale public events organised with the support of the European Union Office to Hong Kong and Macau.

 

10. The CGED will be launching its new standalone website in conjunction with this report (https://www.cged.arts.hku.hk) and is also working to increase its social media presence with the addition of Twitter and LinkedIn. In addition to a more visible Researcher Directory, the website includes up-to-date collated articles and other resources on gender and diversity research; sexual harassment and human resources issues in higher education; academic freedom; curriculum; and the impact of Covid-19 and online teaching on socially vulnerable, underrepresented groups.

 

11. The Committee has enhanced its advocacy on creating an accessible and inclusive campus with the establishment of the Equitable Access and Inclusive Spaces Subcommittee in autumn 2018. One of the Committee’s successes was in petitioning the Senior Common Room (SCR) for a more inclusive membership policy that would permit access to the children of staff members. The SCR amended its by-laws in November 2018 in this regard. In line with the expansion of the university and construction of several new complexes, and to further reflect its remit of creating spaces that are accessible to all, the Committee has taken the initiative to rename the Diversity Committee (from Religious Diversity Subcommittee). The Committee has also reestablished the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Subcommittee to look into issues of training and inclusive language.

 

Recommendations

 

12. The Committee will work to further identify and highlight the impact of the class suspensions brought about by the anti-ELAB protests and Covid-19 and the move to online teaching on women and socially vulnerable, underrepresented groups. This includes issues of work-life balance for colleagues with child and/or elderly care responsibilities, staff and students with special needs, and challenges with securing dedicated office space and broadband access.

 

13. The Committee will monitor the potential impact of the National Security Law on colleagues involved in gender and diversity research in China and be vigilant to the need to review any academic freedom provisions.

 

14. The Subcommittee on Teaching and Learning has previously submitted its recommendations on the use of Student Evaluation of Teaching and Learning (SETL) scores for tenure and promotion, and expressed its concern about the potential unconscious bias in the new peer review of teaching. It will continue to closely monitor changes in SETL and the new peer review system for gender and racial biases.

 

15. The Staffing and Employment Issues Subcommittee will continue to press for a better balance of women and underrepresented groups across the Faculty, and make recommendations on how to better support contingent labour. The Working Group on Equality of Access to Spousal Benefits at HKU will work with the Faculty Office to ensure that same-sex couples can enjoy the same benefits as heterosexual couples. The Working Group on Staffing and Employment Issues of Non-academic Staff has started looking into staffing and employment issues specific to non-academic staff in the Faculty with the aim of highlighting challenges and suggesting areas for discussion going forward.

 

16. Creating an inclusive campus is fundamental to the Committee’s remit. With the construction of new facilities at No. 2 University Drive and development of the Pokfield Road Hub, the University has opportunities to provide sufficient gender-neutral, prayer and breastfeeding facilities in these complexes.

 

17. Ensuring that gender and diversity considerations are included in the Faculty’s training remains an important aspect of the Committees work. This includes training for new staff and postgraduate students; leadership training; Equal Opportunity Advisor training; and training on sexual harassment, inclusive language, unconscious bias, and issues of consent.

 

18. With the move to an online format, the Committee is looking to expand the number and reach of its research-focused and knowledge exchange events. The relevant subcommittees will explore additional opportunities to hold workshops on issues of concern to the Faculty and the establishment of a Distinguished Speaker series.

 

Acknowledgements

 

The Committee is grateful to the Dean of Arts, Professor Derek Collins, for his unwavering support, and to the many people across the Faculty and University who have provided assistance and contributed to our work. We are grateful to current and past CGED members, and subcommittee leads in particular, for committing their time and expertise to the Committee. Our special thanks to: the Faculty Secretary, Ms. Francisca Kwok; past and present CGED Secretaries and assistants, including Ms. Cathy Wong, Ms. Claudia Chan, Mr. Cannon Fung, Ms. Zhang Xuehong and Ms. Yanny Lau; colleagues in the Faculty Office who helped with data for this report, and Ms. Georgina Challen for her assistance in drafting it and her other contributions to the Committee; and Ms. Man Man Wong and our Faculty IT colleagues, Mr. Alex Li and Mr. Desmond Chan, for their work on the CGED website.

 

The complete report is available upon request. Please contact artscged@hku.hk for enquiries.