Irish Times letter: ‘The bar has been set lower for men’

‘There is a growing consensus that the very concept of academic excellence that universities hold so dear is inherently gendered. A man has a better chance going into a selection process purely because there is a man’s name on the application. Or to put it another way, the bar has been set lower for men.’

The above quotation is an excerpt from Dr RM Hilliard’s Letter to the Editor that was published in today’s (April 27th, 2016) Irish Times. The letter follows in full below. You can also read it by clicking on this link: http://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/letters/gender-quotas-and-universities-1.2625368

Gender quotas and universities

Sir, – Higher Education Authority (HEA) figures show that of the seven universities, NUI Galway has the lowest representation of women at senior levels. Ireland also has the second poorest record in Europe for the representation of woman at senior academic levels. While individuals’ career experiences may differ, the systemic inequality at NUI Galway cannot be dismissed.

The Equality Tribunal, in their finding for Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington, reviewed 10 years of academic promotions at NUI Galway and determined there was “prima facie of direct discrimination” given that men had a 50 per cent success rate in those rounds compared to 30 per cent for women.

In 2016 little has changed for women in NUI Galway. HEA figures released in December 2015 show that NUI Galway still has the poorest representation of women at senior levels.

The senior lecturer promotion scheme was revised and a promotion round was held in 2013/14.

Equal numbers of men and women applied, equal numbers were shortlisted, but with 19 men and nine women (plus three women on appeal) identified for promotion, women still had only a 25 per cent success rate.

This imbalance is not confined to senior academics. Women dominate the junior and more precarious academic grades – 80 per cent of university teachers, 66 per cent of fixed-term contracts and 53 per cent of junior lecturers.

Women make up 95 per cent of the lowest administration grades, but 45 per cent of our senior administrators are men.

International research has shed light on how gender bias can hold back women’s academic careers.

Women receive less glowing references, less credit for their research, less credit for their publications, poorer teaching evaluations, fewer awards, and fewer citations.

There is a growing consensus that the very concept of academic excellence that universities hold so dear is inherently gendered. A man has a better chance going into a selection process purely because there is a man’s name on the application. Or to put it another way, the bar has been set lower for men.

Academic appointments are not gender-blind and selection processes cannot be fixed easily. We cannot wait for education and culture to achieve what has not moved in the last 20 years, or in the last 120 years.

The short-term use of gender quotas would offer NUI Galway the opportunity to make significant progress in addressing the legacy of discrimination and signal strong commitment to changing the culture. – Yours, etc,

Dr RM HILLIARD,

Claddagh,

Galway.

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