At the last meeting of the Governing Body, two weeks ago, to our great surprise NUI Galway revealed the details of their final offer made to the four women last month. These details were supposedly strictly secret, so we have never known what it was that the women turned down, but then NUI Galway circulated the offer to every member of the Governing Body! That means that over 40 people got to see it and the university has been full of gossip about it since. We have still to see the actual document (it can be sent to us via email@example.com) and were waiting before we posted a blog. But now we have another development that we strongly suspect is related. NUI Galway has again failed their Athena SWAN application!
Athena SWAN is an award for addressing gender discrimination in higher education and research. The Irish Higher Education Authority has made it a requirement for all Irish universities to achieve the first level, bronze, before 2019 or they will no longer receive government research grants. By this last application only Maynooth and NUI Galway were left not having achieved bronze, so management were desperate for success. But Micheline, and others inspired by this campaign, wrote in to detail the situation for the four women and their impending High Court gender descrimination cases. It now seems we succeeded!
And how are these two developments related? Well, at the start of the mediation process, something that was initiated by management although they tried to hide it, President Jim Browne was that confident they would succeed in bullying the women into accepting less than they deserve, that he announced to the last Governing Body (Údarás) meeting that the High Court cases were sorted. How embarrassing to then have to tell the Údarás that they had not succeeded. And how much more embarrasing when NUI Galway fails the Athena SWAN application again and cites the High Court gender descrimination cases. Management would have known the result before the meeting, as they are told before the public announcement.
And what was the offer to the four women? We hear that it had three elements: a payment of €50,000, a year’s sabbatical with money for someone to take on the lecture duties of the women and ‘a route to promotion’. This ‘route’ we hear, was actually something already available to any lecturer at NUI Galway: to apply for a senior lectureship post elsewhere and, if offered it, to then apply for promotion at NUI Galway on the basis of that offer.
To understand just how derisory this offer was, we should put it into context. When Micheline won her gender descrimination case in 2014 her promotion was back dated to 2009 and she received back pay. For the four women, we estimate that the pay lost will now exceed €90,000 for each of them, it has taken so long to resolve this. Then there is their future pay loss and their loss in pension, which will more than double the sum to at least €200,000, should they not be promoted before they retire. In addition, they have also missed out in the possibility of being awarded a professorship (as has happened to nearly all of the 16 men who were promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2009) and the pay rise associated with that. This would have been one of the reasons the Equality Tribunal awarded Micheline, in addition to her back pay, €70,000 tax free. This was the money she then offered the women so they could take their cases.
For the four women, however, this has never actually been about money, but about NUI Galway’s failure to recognise their worth. What they seek is an admission that in 2009 when 16 men were promoted and only one women, despite over 50% of junior lecturers being women, that an injustice occurred and that they, shortlisted along with Micheline, and like her deemed eligible for promotion and then not promoted, should have been promoted. That’s what is important to them. And it appears that it is also what is important to Athena SWAN. There has been a blatant case of gender descrimination at NUI Galway and it has to be corrected.
To suggest that these four women, all with families, should apply for jobs elsewhere so that they might then be promoted at NUI Galway, is an utter insult. What amazes us most is that University managment actually thought by revealing these details they might be seen as having made a reasonable offer to the women!
We suspect with this latest set-back, NUI Galway will soon be forced to give in and put right the injustice to these women. We hear managment are applying again for Athena SWAN in November. During that application round President Jim Browne will retire, which will hopefully put an end to managment misogyny and the bullying of women. The new president has already been given a warning of what he needs to do. The Irish Times article announcing his appointment gave as much wordage to the need to address the problems for female staff and promote the four, as it did to him.
We are proud of how strong the four women have been. We know what pressure they have been under to capitulate. Now they are starting to get their reward: management running around like a headless chicken!