Hear What Emma Watson Had To Say This Week About Gender Inequality at University

Emma Watson addressed the United Nations General Assembly this week and used the opportunity to challenge what universities worldwide are teaching students about the position of women in society.

Speaking on Tuesday at the international conference on behalf of HeForShe, U.N. Women’s “solidarity movement for gender equality,” Watson proudly presented the HeForShe Impact 10x10x10 University Parity Report. The report explains that 10 universities across the world have committed to focusing on gender equality on campuses – including the University of Oxford and the University of Leicester in the UK.

Watson began her speech by acknowledging the effect going to university had on her own worldview: “I know my university experience shaped who I am and, of course, it does for many people.” But she went on to question what universities are teaching students about the world and about themselves. “What if our experience of university shows us that women don’t belong in leadership? What if it shows us that yes, women can study, but they can’t lead a seminar?” she asked.

Watson questioned “What if, as is the case in far too many universities, we are given the message that sexual violence isn’t actually a form of violence?”

She stressed the importance of changing students’ experiences, “so that they have different expectations of the world around them”, in order to change society as a whole.

Watson went on to address the “double standards” in academia that need to be rectified, saying “we need to see equal respect, leadership and pay” and talked further about the issue of violence against women. “So importantly right now, the [university] experience must make it clear that the safety of women, minorities, and anyone who may be vulnerable is a right not a privilege,” she continued, “a right that must be respected by a community that believes and supports survivors.”

She added, “a university should be a place of refuge, that takes action against all forms of violence.” This comes just a week after Theresa May condemned safe spaces at university.

Watson finished her speech by saying she believed that universities are the places to focus on if we wish to change societal inequality and violence against women.

She told the conference: “we believe that students should leave university believing in, striving for and expecting societies of true equality in every sense – and that universities have the power to be a vital catalyst for that change.”