Sunday 26 January 2020

'Women-only professors a start, but management culture change needed'

University of Limerick emeritus professor of sociology Pat O'Connor
University of Limerick emeritus professor of sociology Pat O'Connor

Lorna Siggins

Radical changes in management culture at Irish universities are required to secure equal access by women to senior academic posts, according to a leading Irish expert in gender equality.

Professor Pat O'Connor has welcomed the establishment of women-only professorships as a "necessary start", but says that fundamental action is required for a "culture change".

Last week, 20 women-only professorships were confirmed for 12 third-level institutions, aimed at tackling gender inequality in higher education.

Recruitment for the appointments is due to get under way this year in areas where there is "clear evidence" of significant under-representation of women, such as computer science, engineering and physics.

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University of Limerick (UL) emeritus professor of sociology Ms O'Connor said her own research suggests there is a "cosy consensus" in relation to access by women to senior posts.

The Higher Education Authority (HEA) expert group representative on the Government's task force welcomed the women-only posts, but said she would "prefer to see a clean-up of the management structure" at third level.

Prof O'Connor has documented how women now constitute 51pc of the lecturers, but only 24pc of those are at full professorial level.

Women have, on average, a three times lesser 'chance' than men of accessing a professorship, she has found.

Speaking on RTÉ's 'This Week' programme, Minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor rejected criticism of the move as "ideological" and said there was proof of "conscious bias" against women in academia.

Irish Independent

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