Friday 20 September 2019

Katherine Donnelly: 'Experts decided that institutions had to change, rather than women'


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Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

When Máire Geoghegan-Quinn and her expert group were drawing the conclusions to their report on gender equality in higher education, they were emphatic that the answer was not the usual "fix the women".

This is where women are required to change to fit the existing culture; but the expert group knocked that on the head early on. They gathered plenty of evidence showing that it does not result in substantial change.

Radical action was needed, they said. A bigger question is why it has taken so long. It is both shocking and ironic that campuses have a dearth of female role models.

In 2015, 55pc of students were female and at junior lecturer level there was an even 50-50 gender split. But then the graph takes a dramatic turn. Only 35pc of senior lecturers, 27pc of associate professors and 19pc of professors were female.

There has been a marginal improvement since then, with 23pc of professors being female in 2017.

It was no better for those in the ranks of non-academic staff: 62pc were women, but men were 72pc of the highest-paid. So even in a sector that prides itself on 'enlightenment', lip service was paid to equality.

Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington, grand-daughter of suffragette Hanna Sheehy Skeffington, pursued a relentless case for justice after losing out on a promotion round in 2008-09.

NUI Galway was ordered to pay her €70,000 and review its appointments system after the Equality Tribunal found in 2014 that she had been discriminated against on grounds of gender.

Events in Galway provided the impetus for a Geoghegan-Quinn review with then HEA chief executive Tom Boland stating: "Same old, same old will not work."

Irish Independent

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