Review of gender equality in colleges
The Higher Education Authority (HEA) has ordered an independent review of gender equality among staff in third-level colleges, following some recent embarrassing disclosures at NUI Galway.
In one case, the Equality Tribunal instructed the western university to promote, retrospectively, Dr Micheline Sheehy-Skeffington and pay her €70,000 damages because she had been discriminated against on gender grounds in a competition for promotion.
Among the tribunal's criticisms was the lack of a marking scheme for the interview, which, it said, highlighted a "ramshackle" approach.
The university was also forced to review its pre-employment health screening, after complaints about asking a job applicant about her "menstrual cycle".
Two internal reports on the college's promotion systems warned last year that the university was "out of step" in advancing women.
Arising from the Sheehy-Skeffington case, NUI Galway proposed that the HEA carry out a national review with the support of the Irish Commission on Human Rights.
The authority will appoint both Irish and international experts to the review panel, which will be asked to produce a report, with recommendations, by May-June 2016.
HEA chief executive Tom Boland said gender inequality "damages all of us - the women of talent who do not get promoted and the wider society who do not have the benefit of that talent".
He promised that the review would not be a mere audit of what was happening in the sector, but would be an important instrument itself in bringing about change.
The review will examine the current policies and practices in colleges, and their impact, and will also look at how to enhance the quality of the approach to achieving gender equality.
"Our aim is an ambitious one - to make Ireland a world leader in equality in our academic communities. It is entirely realisable," said Mr Boland.
While the NUI Galway case triggered the review, the HEA said the issue of gender inequality was a systemic one for Irish higher education that was not confined to one institution.
According to the HEA, the levels of inequality in Irish higher education are typical of international experience.