Why HeForShe Matters

April 15, 2017 / by / 0 Comment

In 2015, The University of Hong Kong, in a landmark move, became the first global university to launch the HeForShe campaign-a United Nations(UN) initiative on gender equality. For the uninitiated, the campaign was started by the UN to create awareness on the role that boys and men play in the abolishment of discrimination and violence against women and girls of all ages. And before you ask, yes, this is the campaign that Emma Watson gave her infamous speech on that flooded your social media timeline a couple years ago. Celebrity endorsements aside, the move is a powerful statement, especially coming from an asian university, in which asian societies still sometimes reinforce unhealthy gender roles.

The key difference of this campaign that HeForShe is targeted at men, which takes up approximately half the student population in HKU, according to reports. It aims to get men thinking about the discrimination their women counterparts face on campus and what they can do to help eliminate it. In a statement released last year by the President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Mathieson, most of the measures are targeted at providing more opportunities for women work staff with only one measure for students; the provision of scholarships for female students from third world countries. Not to underscore the importance of equal workplace opportunities for women staff, should there not be more policies the university can implement that target the student body?

People develop crucial habits and social cues during their time in college, carrying all the soft skills they have learnt into the workforce. This is where having more females in senior positions can help university male students realize the importance of gender equity. In HKU, only 14% of senior leadership positions are occupied by women. Comparing this number to the proportion of women students, the number is dismal. It is imperative to educate both male and female students in the university to realise that “Hey, this isn’t right.”

When these boys enter the boardrooms, it is important for them to recognise that a male-dominated boardroom or office is not and should not be the norm, and this should begin at the university level. If the men studying in HKU are able to develop a sense of awareness on the gender inequity in campus and their role in it whilst in university, this social responsibility may be carried with them when they enter the workforce. And that can only be a good thing.

One of the campaign’s importance is not just in its policies, but its role in creating conversation among the staff and student population. In an interview with Times Higher Education, Professor Mathieson said that some of his staff merely accepted the gender inequality in senior positions, saying that that is just the way it is in Hong Kong. When people are saying “that’s just the way things are”, it usually means a culture of phenomenon has been so deeply ingrained into society, to the point that change seems futile. This is why HKU’s involvement in the campaign matters, to show that change is long, hard, and tiring; but necessary.

With the campaign having gone on for a couple years know, hopefully it has and will continue to create opportunities for both genders to talk about complex issues such as sexual assault, gender pay gap, and redefining gender roles. It is not just a ‘women’ thing, more gender equity means breaking new boundaries together and learning how to be respectful and fair towards one another. Looking at it from that perspective, HeForShe matters not just to the university, but to all of us as well.


I write, sometimes. I breathe, most of the time. Made in Malaysia, made by the internet. I also think I'm funnier than I really am.