Below is a response from Dr. Sheehy Skeffington to a recent PR spin document sent out by NUI Galway to all staff
A response to NUI Galway’s Gender Equality PR document sent to all staff
I apologise for having to write to you but I feel I have no choice as the Gender Equality document the management have just sent to everyone deliberately misinforms concerning the case being taken by the five female lecturers who, like me, were shortlisted but not promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2009.
The time-line given as background in the document implies that they are only taking a case concerning the 2013/14 round (highlighted to emphasise this), whereas the management know full well that the women’s principal intention is to contest the 2008/9 round, where the gender discrimination is at its worst. Their 20013/4 papers had to be submitted to the Circuit Court in December, to meet the six months deadline under the Equality Act.
Six weeks ago the five women offered to hold back submitting their papers to the High Court, (the only remaining option to challenge the 2008/9 round) in response to the President’s press statement that he wanted an ‘amicable agreement’, and suggested they meet him. The fact that the gender document you received was sent out the day before that meeting finally took place, to my mind would lead one to suspect that there was no intention of coming to any agreement that the five could accept.
The other piece of ‘spin’ in the NUI Galway document is the comparison of the percentage women promoted in 2009 with those in 2014 to show how NUI Galway have put things right, when it has just restored the percentage to the range prior to 2009 (see table below). It was because I discovered how exceptionally unjust the 2008/9 round was, that I felt I had no choice but to forego my €70,000 award and offer it instead to the five to take their cases to the High Court, a much more expensive procedure than mine.
The next table demonstrates the injustice of what happened in 2008/9 with the promotions and how that has continued for the women involved. (the names of the male candidates have been removed following a request)
Note firstly how few women were even shortlisted that year despite there being more female college lecturers/ATB than male. The seven of us who were shortlisted were thus the top female candidates, according to the NUI Galway assessment. The only one of us promoted was ranked last out of the 17 candidates promoted. I have been told by several colleagues that her addition was prompted by the realisation that there were no women at all being promoted. I have no evidence of this, but it is believable.
Please also note the starkly contrasting situation today for the 2008/9 shortlisted male and female candidates. I am the only female promoted since, through winning my equality case. In contrast, five of the un-promoted men in 2008/9 have since been promoted and eleven of the men are now professors.
The five women were told, when they first met with the President, that they were simply not good enough to deserve promotion in 2008/9. How does that fit with the fact that I have since won an equality case, the ruling of which he ‘unreservedly’ accepted? The equality ruling lists at least 10 instances of discrimination that do not apply specifically to me. I draw your attention to sections 4.3-4.6 of the ruling. It is attached or can be seen at: http://www.workplacerelations.ie/en/Cases/2014/November/DEC-E2014-078.html.
Despite claims by the university, I discovered I was more deserving of promotion, according to the NUI Galway criteria and/or guidelines, than half of the eight men who were promoted by my board and I am confident, having seen far more evidence than is cited in the ruling, that the other five women were also better than some of the men promoted by their boards. We were not promoted in 2013/14 because the criteria had changed and because the intervening six years had produced younger women candidates, with advantages we did not have, who were ranked higher than us. They also did not promote the proportion of women (50%) that were shortlisted.
It is the 2008/9 that is most at fault, though. I discovered many instances where NUI Galway had ignored its own criteria, or promoted people stunningly short of the guideline minima, or ignored details that should have counted against candidates. What transpired at my hearing was that the only important factors were how much money a candidate could bring in, their ‘leadership’, or their overall ability to improve the NUI Galway ranking. The Equality Tribunal ruling only mentions two instances of this, the ineligibility of one of the candidates (evidence for which makes it seem extremely unlikely that it was a simple ‘administrative error’) and the lack of a PhD of another. However there was much more than that.
My reluctance to disclose any of this information publicly and through the campaign, and the offer of the five women to delay their case, is because none of us wishes to further damage NUI Galway’s reputation and, in particular, harm the standing of our male colleagues, as they are not at fault. It was the system and its implementation which was responsible. That is why I took all I knew to the President early on and then told the Governing Body. A motion was proposed to promote the five which the President stopped insisting they did not have the power to do that. It is why the five have been meeting with the President to try to resolve this before going to court. However, despite all mention of amicable agreements, his response has simply been to persist in saying they could not and should not be promoted. So now the five have no choice but to submit papers to the High Court, along with all the evidence they have, and the campaign will start to use some of that evidence to seek support for them.
I accept that, following my equality case result, the subsequent publicity and the resulting campaign, NUI Galway now genuinely wants to be seen to be attempting to put right the gender discrimination at NUI Galway. But I was on the NUI Galway Equality Committee that made recommendations in 1990 which still require implementation. There have also been subsequent recommendations in response to the 2008/9 results. But despite all this, we still have the lowest number of female academics in senior posts of any Irish University. Thus I am sceptical that much change will come of the Task Force.
What I am seeking is immediate action: to redress the very obvious injustices of the 2008/9 round. The President should promote the five women who suffered that injustice. I am convinced he can do it. I also believe that he has a moral duty to, rather than leave it to the courts to decide, as this injustice occurred on his watch. I also believe that much of what went wrong in 2008/09 was due to his drive to get NUI Galway up the rankings, draw in more grant money and improve its ‘leadership’. All of these are commendable aims and so I can’t simply blame him for what happened because of this focus.
If I was to put the blame anywhere for what happened in 2008/9 it would be with a gender imbalance at NUI Galway that was not mentioned in their Gender Equality document, that of the University Management Team. There are six men on this, including the President, the Deputy President and the Registrar, and only one woman, the Bursar whose responsibility is for finance and not policy. Until we choose a management team which is itself gender balanced how can we expect them to realise the adverse effect of their policies on women or what to do to prevent it happening? Having acknowledged that however, I still believe the president and his management team have to now put right what they got wrong and not force these women through all the expense and pain of a high profile court case.
Micheline Sheehy Skeffington 25th March 2015
More information and any future developments can be found at the campaign website set up by supporters: www.michelinesthreeconditions.wordpress.com If anyone might wish to make a donation to help the five with their court cases, they can also do it on that web site.
I append one last figure that illustrates again how exceptionally bad the 2008/9 promotion round was.
Success rate of candidates by gender 2001-2014