Tuesday 19 February 2019

NUIG told to pay lecturer €70,000 for gender bias

Micheline Sheehy Skeffington
Micheline Sheehy Skeffington
Dr Micheline Sheeky Skeffington

Caroline Crawford

A university has said it accepts "unreservedly" the decision of the Equality Tribunal that it had discriminated against a female academic on grounds of gender.

The tribunal found in favour of Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington and ordered the university to promote her and pay her €70,000 in damages.

It cited both direct and indirect discrimination.

It said that, while procedures for promotion to senior lecturer at NUIG seemed to be fair, they have fallen short in implementation.

Dr Sheehy Skeffington (pictured), a grand-daughter of famed Irish suffragette Hanna Sheehy Skeffington, had applied for the post of a senior lecturer in 2008-2009 but was not appointed.

An internal appeal on the matter was also unsuccessful.

She has taught at the School of Botany in NUIG since 1990 and is a highly qualified botanist who has been widely published.

She was overlooked for promotion on a number of occasions and took a complaint about gender bias regarding promotions in the college.

In its ruling, the tribunal stated that during the interviews for the position, the external interviewers' suggestions were ignored, despite them being the only experts in Dr Sheehy Skeffington's field.

It described the process as "ramshackle".

"Worryingly, one candidate (male) promoted was not even eligible for the competition. I do not accept the respondent's contention that this was gender-neutral.

"All female applicants short-listed met the requirement of having enough service. Clearly all men did not," it stated.

No candidate, successful or unsuccessful, has supervised more PhDs to completion than the complainant, it added.

It also pointed out that while men are in the minority in the college lecturer grade at 40pc, that statistic is almost inverted when it comes to the next promotional grade - 61pc of senior lecturers are men.

It ordered the college to review its policies and procedures in relation to promotions and to report back.

The tribunal ordered the university to retrospectively appoint Dr Sheehy Skeffington to the post and to pay her damages of €70,000.

A spokesperson for the university said it "accepts unreservedly" the decision of the tribunal and will take immediate steps to implement its findings.

The university initiated a major review of senior lecturer promotion procedures in 2012/13.

The university said it regretted the distress caused to Dr Sheehy Skeffington and thanked her for her contribution to the university over many years.

Dr Sheehy Skeffington is a grand-daughter of suffragette and nationalist Hanna Sheehy Skeffington, a founder member of the Irish Women's Franchise League and an ardent campaigner for equal rights in the early years of the last century.

Irish Independent

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