Professional Development


The professional development programmes for women employed in the higher education sector, offered by HERS-SA, are intended to provide participants with relevant, practical information that will enhance their effectiveness, in a secure, supportive environment. Professional development interventions may take the form of conference, seminars and an annual Academy.  (Six mini-Academies exclusively for HERS-SA alumnae were hosted between 2011 & 2016.  However due to funding constraints experienced by many higher education institutions, this programme will not be offered in 2017). The active ingredients in any intervention include the materials, the facilitators, networking amongst the participants, exposure to role models and a space to compare notes, swop experiences and gain support from each other. These ingredients mix and blend with each other throughout the developing process.


The following principles underpin our approach:

Women Only:

Unless otherwise specified, HERS-SA professional development programmes are only available to women. Experience has shown that women's groups settle down quickly and explore issues at a deep level when participants realise that their issues are taken seriously and significant support exists for them within the group. Some of the topics that emerge in discussions are gender-specific and require a secure environment for thorough exploration. The workshops are pro-women, not anti-men.

Self Nomination:

Professional development frequently demands a great deal from the participant from self-examination through to making significant changes in one's approach to both their personal and work life. Therefore, all participants at HERS-SA workshops are there through their own choice.

Holistic Approach:

HERS-SA recognises that women balance multiple roles and that work is but one element of a complex life. Our programmes, as far as possible, are designed to accommodate these various demands on participants' time. Furthermore, women are encouraged to relate the material and discussions to their own circumstances, knowing that life experiences beyond the work place are perceived as valid.


Participants are encouraged to share real examples of their work experiences rather than to speak to hypothetical cases. Therefore confidentiality is essential. All in the group, including the facilitator, are required to respect this principle. No evaluation data collected from our delegates are given to institutions or individuals. Only a high-level report and media release on HERS-SA Academies is provided to our stakeholders.


HERS-SA professional development is available to all women employed in the higher education sector, regardless of age, position, tenure, race, language, sexual orientation, physical ability or any other potentially discriminating criteria. Diversity within the development workshop groups is valued as learning and sharing opportunities are greatly enhanced.


Primarily, workshop facilitators are experienced women currently employed in HE institutions who share their knowledge and skills with other women connected to the HERS-SA network. When necessary private consultants are used as facilitators, comprising women and men, who are invited to offer a component of the professional development workshops. Facilitators are selected on the basis that they have expertise in their field and are themselves actively engaged in their own development.

Role models:

Role models are included wherever possible as facilitators and guest speakers who share stories of their own careers. It is not uncommon for participants to experience each other as role models.

Ownership of content:

Each workshop is designed around core content elements. However, HERS-SA does not purport to offer 'cook-book solutions' for all situations. Participants are actively encouraged to offer up their own examples and issues for discussion. In this way every workshop is different and participants take away from each interaction as much or as little as they choose themselves.

Practical and Participative:

Case studies and exercises included in workshops are drawn from real situations. Participants are encouraged to try out and experiment with techniques offered. Many small group discussions are included where women are encouraged to learn from each other.


Considered by HERS-SA to be a critical element in professional development, participants are continuously encouraged to network and establish links with each other that go beyond the boundaries of HERS-SA programmes. Frequently, groups establish a list-serve to stay in contact with each other after a programme has ended. All participants are provided with a list of contact details of everyone else attending the same workshop. To encourage ongoing networking, HERS-SA uses its website and various social media platforms to encourage alumnae to voice their opinions and share their experiences on various topical issues.

Collectively, the above elements are interwoven into all HERS-SA professional development interventions in the belief that a unique space is created for women in higher education to share and learn from each other in order to enrich their current working experiences, and prepare them to assume a greater role as thought leaders and change agents within the higher education sector.

Adapted from: Willis l and Daisley J (1992) Developing Women through Training McGraw-Hill, London)