Monday 20 May 2019

Minister slates slow progress on higher education gender equality

Higher Education Minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor. Photo: Mark Condren
Higher Education Minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor. Photo: Mark Condren
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

A lack of leadership is limiting the number of women in senior positions at third-level colleges, Higher Education Minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor has warned.

Universities and other colleges have taken positive steps towards gender equality, but women continue to be under-represented in key roles, according to a new report by Higher Education Authority (HEA).

Ms Mitchell O'Connor said only "very small steps" were being achieved.

She called for "strong commitment and leadership" from college presidents in tackling the issue.

This is the third annual gender report by the HEA.

Overall, it found only "marginal improvement of 1-2pc", in the number of women holding senior positions, such as professorships.

Across universities, 54pc of all staff and 45pc of academics are female, but they account for only 24pc of professors and 30pc of staff on salaries of more than €106,000.

Gender breakdowns vary between the different higher education sectors, such as institutes of technology and other colleges, including teacher training, but continuing inequality is evident across the board.

The report presents gender breakdown data under two broad headings: leadership, governance and management; and among professor, associate professor, senior lecturer and lecturer grades.

In the past two years, five of the seven universities have gone from having no women on their executive management teams to meeting the target for a minimum 40pc female representation.

However, NUI Galway, which has been embroiled in controversy over lack of promotions for women, and University College Dublin have not achieved the 40pc goal.

Three out of the seven universities have reached the minimum 40pc female representation on their academic council and five out of seven on their governing authority.

Eight of the 14 institute of technology governing authorities have achieved the minimum 40pc equal representation, while nine have at least 40pc women on their academic council.

HEA chief executive Dr Graham Love said it was looking forward to the forthcoming Gender Taskforce Action Plan, to be published Ms Mitchell O'Connor, which will outline a key role for the HEA in ensuring the sector makes progress towards gender equality.

Technological Higher Education Association chief executive Dr Joseph Ryan said his association would shortly be publishing a gender policy statement.

Irish Federation of University Teachers general secretary Joan Donegan said that while the figures showed very gradual progression on equality, more robust progress was required.

Irish Independent

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