Women in Management in Higher Education
Between 29 th September and 9th October 2004, Colleen Chesterman was in Nigeria working with the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) represented by Mrs Dorothy Garland, Deputy Director, on a workshop to train senior women in higher education from Nigeria and Ghana. The workshop took place from 3-9 October at a hotel at the impressive 'confluence' of the rivers Niger and Benue in central Nigeria.
Participants included 30 senior women academics and administrators from 12 universities from Nigeria and Ghana. The ACU and the Commonwealth Secretariat has organised similar workshops in developing Commonwealth countries since 1985, eg in India, Malaysia, Gambia, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Barbados, Kenya and Pakistan. The workshops aim to sensitise women to the issues they face in advancing their careers; plan strategies for improving their own competencies; attempt changes in the university environments in which they work and enable them to train other women.
Those taking part as facilitators were Dr Jasbir Singh, consultant to the ACU, Professor Abiola Odejide, from the University of Ibadan, and appointed just after the workshop as DVC of Ibadan, Professor Bolanle Awe, also from Ibadan, Ms Wilhemina Tete-Mensah, Registrar of Ghana University for Development Studies, Anne Gold from London University Institute of Education and Dr Colleen Chesterman from ATN WEXDEV.
This workshop was designed (such as that in Pakistan in 2002) as a training of trainers using materials on women and higher education management which have been prepared and tested in previous workshops and are published by the Commonwealth Secretariat and the ACU. There are now 8 modules, each involving plans for a number of workshops.
Participants were introduced first to the Facilitators' handbook, guiding them as to how to run sessions. Participants had selected 4 additional ACU training modules, management skills for women, women and mentoring in higher education, women's studies as a catalyst to the enhancement of women's status; and women and research. Daily sessions were devoted to critiquing the training modules with a view to adopting, adapting or rejecting the materials for use within the local context.
Participants worked throughout in zonal groups linking 2-3 universities in a region (or in the case of Ghana, the nation) to share experiences and work collaboratively.
On the last day participants formulated action plans which would take forward the work of the women's programme in their own institutions and zones. These primarily aimed at increasing the number of women in management positions through greater gender sensitisation, enhancing the capacity of women academics, improving their networking and information/experience sharing, and helping to change the culture of universities to make them more welcoming for women in senior management positions. The presence of a senior bureaucrat from the department funding universities in Nigeria ensured that recommendations from the workshop were prepared for implementation. Delegates also committed themselves to maintaining a network of support through e-mail. Most recognised that their work in trying to get senior managers in their institutions to provide resources for women's development was just beginning, but were looking forward eagerly to trying. The women evaluated the workshops and the training modules very highly.
Comments from participants included:
"I found the group presentations were helpful in making me have the self-confidence to present ideas before persons of like minds and professions; enabled me to share and exchange lived experiences";
"The training brings new dimensions of capacity building for women in Nigerian Higher Education Institutions."
"The walls between academics and administration staff were narrowed down."
"The methodology - participatory and action learning - made it easy to slide from theory to action and to link both effectively - the activities designed really interested me as an adult educator."
"It was not just a 'telling' session, rather in all the modules, the participants were stimulated to read, observe, reflect and participate actively in problem identification and INVOLVEMENT in searching for and coming up with solutions, resolutions, initiation of actions and making for better outcomes."