University of Hong Kong (HKU) teaching staff have urged the inclusion of female members on the committee searching for the university’s next president and vice chancellor.

The committee was set up following a surprise announcement made by vice-chancellor Peter Mathieson in February that he would be resigning early. The body comprises four members, who are all male.

Peter Mathieson. File Photo: Isaac Wong.

“[We] are surprised and disappointed at the composition of the search committee,” members of HKU Women’s Studies Research Centre and staff concern group HKU Vigilance said in a joint statement on Thursday.

They said the all-male body appeared to contradict a new policy announced last October declaring that “at least 30 per cent of the voting members or at least two voting members of the search or selection committee should be female.”

The groups are now demanding HKU’s governing council redress the gender imbalance by appointing two female members to the search committee. They also requested that the committee be instructed to consider suitable female candidates for the vacancy.

“I think the HKU senior management has been taking important steps to improve gender equality, but obviously more needs to be done,” professor Timothy O’Leary, the head of the School of Humanities and a member of HKU Council, told HKFP.

Timothy O’Leary. File Photo: Stand News.

The search committee is chaired by HKU Council member and former Jockey Club chairman Thomas Brian Stevenson.

The three others are chair professors of the university: Chair of Economics Richard Wong Yue-chim, Chair of Materials Science and Engineering Alfonso Ngan Hing-wan, and Chair of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology Wallace Lau Chak-sing.

An HKU spokesperson told HKFP that the three professors were elected by their faculty colleagues.

See also: Interview: ‘We only did 10%’ – HKU chief Peter Mathieson on the university’s push for gender equality

In April 2015, HKU became one of the first universities in the world to launch the UN Women’s HeForShe campaign on campus. The adoption of the policy last October to ensure gender balance on all select and search committees was one of several measures taken as part of the initiative.

But Mathieson admitted in an interview with HKU student magazine HKUDOS that the policy is not aggressive enough.

Update 21/04: Added response from HKU. 

Ellie Ng

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.