Monday 19 March 2018

Future funding for third-level colleges linked to having minimum number of women in senior positions

Maire Geoghegan-Quinn
Maire Geoghegan-Quinn
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Future funding for third-level colleges will be linked to having a minimum number of women in senior positions.

The radical move arises from recommendations of an expert group headed by former EU Commissioner Dr Maire Geogheghan Quinn, carried out in behalf of the Higher Education Authority (HEA).

The issue came under the microscpe in recent years arising from a  number of high profile cases alleging sex discrimination in promotions in the university sector, most notably Micheline Sheehy Skeffington in NUI Galway.

Colleges will be obliged to have mandatory quotas for academic promotion and State funding will be witheld if they do not meet agreed targets.

A key recommendation requires that women - and men - hold at least 40pc of positions in higher education decision-making bodies.

There will be a review of recruitment and promotion procedures in all third level colleges to ensure they are gender sensitive.

Colleges will be required to achieve a gender equality award known as Athena and there will be a direct link between having that and receiving research funding.

Within seven years colleges  will have to have an Athena silver award to be eligible for research funding.

In September 2015 five out of seven universities had 40pc or more women on their governing and only eight out of 14 institutes of technology met that standard.

"Same old, same old will not work. We need to fix and radically change the system that perpetuates gender discrimination,"said HEA chief executive Tom Boland.

He said while colleges had to varying degrees sought to address gender inequality  in rbe past, the intractable under-representation of women in senior ranks signalled a need for a radical approach.

Ms Geogheghan Quinn said the "fix the women" approach - aimed at getting women to fit the existing culture- would not work.

She said  organisations and their culture must change and would require a genuine, long term commitment from managers at every level, led from the top.

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