Advance HE has delivered a series ‘She Leads’ workshops as part of a Women in Leadership (WiL) programme in South Africa. The workshops were designed to explore what leadership means in HE today, the leadership context within which the participants operate and the opportunities and challenges for South African women aspiring to lead in HE.
The programme forms part of the Higher Education Leadership and Management (HELM) Programme, which is being implemented by Universities South Africa as part of the Department of Higher Education and Training’s University Capacity Development Programme. The success of the WiL programme was reviewed at a recent webinar, which opened a new series of HELM Engage webinars looking at all areas of leadership and management in higher education.
Universities South Africa (USAf) launched the HELM Engage programme in July, which entails a series of short, ‘robust’ webinars featuring practitioners who are shaping the HE landscape around the world. The first of these looked at the impact of the WiL programme and the key lessons that HE leaders could take away.
Feedback from participants of the WiL programme was overwhelmingly positive, with one participant saying that they now feel like they can ‘change the system’. She said: “One of the expectations was to meet accomplished females and establish long-lasting networks; little did I expect to meet the one female who through an envisaged life-long relationship would change the way I choose to lead. Me!
“Slowly this new understanding of power has made me realise that I am not powerless. This for me was really empowering because it also facilitated a shift in mentality from being a victim of a system to rather being someone who can change a system by initiating ripples of change by wielding the power I have in my circle of control.”
Another remarked on the ‘calm space to think’ that the programme provided: “In a busy crazy world that our academic and personal lives have become, this was such a calming quiet-inducing time and space for me. It made me stop, think, reflect, and recognise the choices I have going forward. It was also so great to interact with like-minded colleagues who helped to enrich the experience. This WiL experience will stay with me for ever”.
At the launch of the WiL in 2020, Director of HELM, Oliver Seale, wrote about why the programme was so important for South African higher education when facing up to the challenges of the post-Covid world.
He said: “South African higher education is in transition and grappling with major challenges arising from global and local development imperatives. With a global disruption like the Covid-19 pandemic, we are also facing a leadership crisis which requires an altogether different response. The fault lines in our leadership have been brutally exposed during the pandemic and we need a response that is attuned to complexity, transformation, pluralism on the one hand and performativity and efficiency on the other.
“A critical role in addressing the current challenges is played by women leaders. Gender equity and women’s access to executive and management positions in universities is a major challenge on the African continent, and especially at the executive level in South Africa.” Read the full blog here.
Advance HE has also delivered She Leads workshops in Uzbekistan and Bahrain and the programme explores the challenges that women leaders in higher education face and how they can be overcome. Drawing on the highly regarded and popular Aurora programme, the workshops take a vertical slice through our leadership lenses from leading self to leading others, through to leading within organisations and influencing across the wider HE ecosystem. Participants critically question and evolve their awareness, choices and actions for doing leadership to meet and shape their multiple operating contexts.
Universities South Africa is a membership organisation representing South Africa’s 26 public universities. It aims to promote a more inclusive, responsive and equitable national system of higher education in South Africa.
The She Leads programme takes vertical slice through our leadership lenses from leading self to leading others; to leading within the organisations and then externally, towards leading and influencing across the wider HE ecosystem. Find out more.