November 9, 2020


The 9th World Women University Presidents Forum, taking place in Ki’an, China from 6-8 November, has brought together more than 180 participants to hold in-depth exchanges on the topic of “Global Empathy - Mutual Learning Among Civilizations - University Innovation”.

Dr. Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, President of the World Maritime University (WMU), delivered a keynote speech via video on the first day of the Forum. In her remarks, she noted the timeliness of the Global Empathy theme, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Global Empathy has much to do with the idea that we, as citizens of the world, must strive to develop the ability to understand, accept, and interact with individuals from all different backgrounds, regardless of race, nationality, language, religion, colour, gender, etc. It means that we must strive to become global citizens,” she said.

During the 14-month WMU MSc programme in Malmö, Sweden, students from roughly 50 countries each year study together, live together in the same residence, gain mutual understanding, and build relationships. President Doumbia-Henry highlighted this interaction as a prime example of fostering global empathy, saying, “ ‘Mutual Learning Among Civilizations’ is something our students benefit from by the very nature of the diversity of the student body and the Faculty and Staff composition of WMU.”

President Doumbia-Henry spoke about the gender imbalance within the maritime industry, particularly in regard to the percentage of women seafarers that has remained at roughly two percent for the last 28 years. She emphasized the importance of long-term solutions to address gender imbalance within the maritime and ocean sector, as well as other professions, by educating more women to move into managerial and leadership positions. With the current global situation, she maintained it is more important than ever for educators to be adaptable, and to “Educate to Innovate”.

WMU has taken a proactive role in educating women to fulfill leadership roles in the maritime and oceans sector. In 1983, the WMU female student representation was three per cent, but today stands at 36 per cent on average, with the WMU MSc programme in Shanghai achieving gender parity in the Class of 2019 with 50 per cent female students.

The Forum was hosted by the Organizing Committee of the World Women University Presidents Forum/Women Leadership Academy, Xi’an Technological University and the Communication University of China. The Forum aims to create an international platform for women university presidents and experts all over the world to communicate and collaborate, and to share new ideas and thoughts in the field of higher education.

In line with the main theme, the discussions were divided into four sub-themes: The Changing Global Landscape & Mutual Learning Among Civilizations; Smart Society & University Innovation; University Governance & Sustainable Development; Gender Equality & Women’s Leadership.