The Women Faculty Association at HKUST was established in November 2011 by a group of like-minded women faculty from all four schools at HKUST - school of Engineering, Science, Business and Management, and Humanities and Social Science. Many of us have been with HKUST since its early stages and we were puzzled to see that while our beloved university has grown from a "startup" twenty some years ago to a world-class institution, ranked among the best in the world, the gender landscape has not changed much. The percentage of female faculty members has remained in the low teens and that of senior female faculty members has not increased significantly over the last two decades. In contrast, our male faculty members have steadily risen through the ranks to where the majority are full professors today. In the school of Engineering and Science, we have seen no increase in terms of female student percentage in some of the disciplines such as computer science, electronic engineering, civil engineering, physics and mathematics. Not only that, there is little visibility, if at all, of women in leadership positions. Moreover, there is an urgent need to address challenges faced by young tenure-track women faculty members.
After many discussions at informal gatherings, we decided that something needed to be done to improve diversity of all kinds at our university in order to propel HKUST to be truly among the best in the world. Diversity drives ideas and liberates minds. There have been many studies showing the benefit of gender diversity in terms of organizational efficiency. With the strong support of the Provost Professor Wei Shyy, the Women Faculty Association (WFA) at HKUST was born with the mission "to actively promote a diverse, inclusive, equitable and intellectually vibrant environment" at our university.
We welcome to WFA all faculty members, female and male. We promote diversity and equality in terms of gender, discipline, cultural and personal background, at the faculty level, the student level and university-wide. We provide a network for senior women faculty to mentor and support junior women, for women faculty to mentor women students, and for us to support each other. We invite distinguished seminar speakers to talk about gender diversity and other issues. We organize faculty forums on topics of interest to all faculty members. We support the Provost's Office on initiatives related to work/family issues, to diversity recruit, to improve campus culture, etc. WFA members were instrumental in drafting several university policies supporting gender diversity. We also welcome new faculty members and gather together to share our experiences. The WFA has established the Women In Science and Engineering (WISE) Scholarship for women students to enroll in programs with low female representation. We have organized each year since our founding a WISE Summer Camp for high school female students. The WFA has also organized an annual Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day where children of faculty and staff are able to visit our labs and lectures.
Diversity is now a core issue for HKUST and we are happy to be driving it. There remain a lot of challenges ahead. Nevertheless, we hope that you find the WFA family welcoming and open.