Change 100 Things for Gender Equality in National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG)

Change 100 Things

I had the pleasure of visiting my previous place of employment, the National University of Ireland, Galway, a few weeks ago. I have blogged previously (https://womantheory.wordpress.com/) about the very dire situation there with regards to the promotion of academic women. I gave a talk to the University Women’s Network, and the atmosphere as you can imagine was highly charged, with about 70 women and a sprinkling of supportive men in attendance. Given that the university management has chosen to go to court rather than address issues of gender equality in a proactive manner, the resultant hurt and anger was very clear to see.

It was however amazing to see so many friends again, many of whom are women who I would, if I were in charge, be proud to have on my senior management team. They have difficult decisions to make now about how best to push for real change in the university. The culture in the university, as I experienced it when I worked there, is one in which women are by and large not perceived to be authoritative scholars in their own right. Changing this culture could be perceived to be a dishearteningly monumental task, but one of the asides I made during their discussion was the idea that they think about changing 100 things by 1%. This is an idea we’ve discussed in my current university in relation to the student experience, because perceptions really can be changed through lots of small measures. Here I want to start a list of the 100 things that could be changed in NUIG in relation to how women are perceived (some of these are quite specific to NUIG but others could – and already have – worked elsewhere):

  1. Remove the pictures of the ‘great men’ of the university from the board room in the old quadrangle building and hang them somewhere less public (this is something the network has been pushing for awhile now but it hasn’t happened yet even though it is simple and effective);

  2. Stop running special training courses to help women learn how to be promoted and offer training instead that helps those in power learn how to change their perceptions of how gender inequalities are perpetuated;

  3. Ask every head of department to analyse workload allocations in relation to gender;

  4. Ask every head of department to discuss workload allocations and gender in their departmental meetings in an open and honest manner;

  5. Abolish the Task Force (eg talking shop) on gender and make it the responsibility of the entire university community to help change the culture;

  6. Make sure that there is a gender awareness responsibility embedded in every decision-making process of the university;

  7. Ensure that women are seen to represent and speak for the university at high profile or public events;

  8. Make sure women are chairs of lots of committees within the university;

  9. Implement flexible policies around employees’ responsibilities of care outside the university and make these policies a source of pride as a ‘good employer’;

  10. Reward collective successes rather than individual vanity by celebrating things such as great student feedback or innovations within teaching teams (some teams do win Teaching Excellence Awards but there is still far more celebration of individuals – mainly for individual research achievements – than for teams and the resulting egos are demoralising for others);

  11. Recognise that students are also hurt and angry over the issue of gender inequality in their university, and bring them into discussions about solutions;

  12. Foster a culture of pride within the university over the proactive response being taken to tackling gender inequalities and the progressive steps necessary to achieve change;

  13. Educate staff and students about what affirmative action really looks like and have open discussions about whether and how these measures might be taken;

  14. Encourage senior staff to take responsibility for helping women to find opportunities to gain esteem, for example by putting forward their names for keynote talks;

  15. Raise awareness about gender inequalities amongst non-academic staff and bring these discussions into the mainstream;

  16. Recognise that selling ‘spin’ to the media will probably come back to bite you (http://www.irishtimes.com/news/education/expert-declines-mudflap-role-on-gender-equality-taskforce-1.2214658), and accept that an honest, proactive approach is much more professional.

Now that I’ve started the list maybe others can continue with suggestions. However there is also an alternative option in NUIG in particular that could go a long way to help bring about change, and that is to change 1 thing by 100%. I am well aware that just putting a woman at the top is not always the answer. But just consider this for a moment:  wouldn’t it be amazing if, after all of this, NUIG ended up being the first university in Ireland with a female President?

By the way, here is one way that the Institute of Psychiatry in King’s College London celebrates women’s achievements. Sadly, NUIG does not currently have enough female professors in the entire university – let alone just one department – to make this type of impact, but in my view it’s what they should be hoping to achieve.

 

 

About the author:

Kelly Coate is a Senior Lecturer in Higher Education at Kings College London and Director of the Kings Learning Institute. She was previously a Lecturer in Higher Education at the National University of Ireland, Galway. She sits on the Governing Council of the Society for Research into Higher Education (SRHE) and is on the editorial boards of the Journal of Education PolicyTeaching in Higher Education, and Higher Education Research and Development.

Kelly has written about gender and academic labour, including a new article in BJSE: Coate, K. and Kandikow Howson (2014) Indicators of Esteem: Gender and Prestige in Academic WorkBritish Journal of Sociology of Education.  DOI:10

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One thought on “Change 100 Things for Gender Equality in National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG)

  1. Pingback: Ninth Level Ireland » Blog Archive » Change 100 Things for Gender Equality in National University of Ireland, Galway

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