Saturday 21 September 2019

Fears over 'jobs for the girls' backlash as High Education Minister to create professor posts 'only for women' to end bias

  • Landmark move in gender wars
  • ‘Jobs for the girls’ backlash fear
Higher Education Minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor. Photo: Mark Condren
Higher Education Minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor. Photo: Mark Condren
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

THE Minister for Higher Education is to create women-only professorships in a radical move to address persistent gender inequality at senior levels in universities and third level colleges.

Mary Mitchell O’Connor has revealed that she is making some professorial posts in third level institutions open to female applicants only under new plans to counter the “paltry proportion” of women in senior third level positions.

Writing exclusively in the Sunday Independent, Ms Mitchell O’Connor said she expects a “minor backlash” to the female-only professorships which some may deem “jobs for the girls”.

But she said she will not apologise or shirk from her responsibility “to make the third-level sector an equal one”.

The Minister for Higher Education will formally launch her initiative tomorrow when she publishes an action plan by the Department of Education’s gender equality task force that she says sets out a number of “radical changes” to ensure a more equal playing field for women.

She writes today: “As Minister for Higher Education, in conjunction with the Department of Education, I am creating female-only professorial posts within our universities and Institutes of Technologies. This is just one of a myriad of  initiatives that will address and improve on the paltry proportion of women in senior third-level positions.”

She urged third level institutions to “grasp the opportunity for change”.

The minister’s announcement comes against a backdrop of growing international focus on gender gaps and equal pay in the work place, fuelled by the #MeToo movement that emerged from women speaking out against sexism and harassment in Hollywood.

Read Mary Mitchell O’Connor’s piece in today’s Sunday Independent.

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