Two NUI Galway unions have joined the Micheline’s Three Conditions campaign in welcoming NUI Galway’s Governing Body’s unanimous adoption today of the Gender Equality Task Force report. One of the report’s main recommendations requires gender quotas for promotion to senior academic staff at the university, which fulfills one of the three conditions demanded by the campaign.
However, NUI Galway Students’ Union and IFUT, the academic staff union, along with Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington voiced their serious concerns that the five women academics who have been forced to take their gender discrimination cases to the courts still have not been promoted. Additionally, SIPTU, the other staff union, which faulted the report and the task force that wrote it, saying it was biased and non-independent, also supports the campaign’s demand that the five be promoted.
The Students’ Union, IFUT and the Micheline’s Three Conditions campaign issued a joint statement saying they are deeply worried that NUI Galway management’s only real concern is to stop the bad publicity it has received, without actually addressing a structure which is deeply misogynist and unfair to women.
“Management must also promote the five women who were shortlisted, deemed eligible and not promoted along with Dr Sheehy Skeffington in the 2008/9 round of promotions to Senior Lecturer, rather than take cases to the High Court,” the statement says, pointing out that only one woman was promoted in that round against 16 men, amounting to just 6.7% of the female candidates who applied, compared to 50% of male candidates.
“We insist NUI Galway management ends its intransigence and promotes the five other women. We will continue to jointly campaign for this to happen until NUI Galway does so,” the statement ends.
The Údarás unanimously accepted the final report from the task force looking into gender inequality in senior posts at the university, and its 24 evidence-based recommendations. Two main recommendations are:
-All committees and working groups at the University should have a minimum of 40 per cent of women by the end of this year, while 50 per cent of the chairs of these influential committees should be women by late 2018.
-Mandatory gender quotas are required to ensure more women are promoted to senior academic posts.
The report, written by Prof. Jane Grimson of TCD, recommends that the gender quotas follow a cascade system for the promotion of female academics. The Údarás mandated the newly appointed Vice President for Equality & Diversity to develop an Implementation Plan to be brought to the governing body this Autumn.
The acceptance of the report is the first time that any Irish university, educational institution, state or semi-state body has adopted mandatory quotas to address the lack of women in senior posts.
The use of gender quotas would satisfy one of the original conditions demanded by the Micheline’s Three Conditions campaign. Since then, Micheline has said that this improvement must be implemented fully for all academic and non-academic university staff. The cascade system of gender quotas was first suggested by Dr Sheehy Skeffington as a fair solution to one of three conditions that she wanted met by NUI Galway. Dr Sheehy Skeffington won a landmark gender discrimination case against the university in 2014. Because of the resulting bad publicity, NUI Galway President Jim Browne set up the task force and claimed that Dr Sheehy Skeffington was on it. She had never agreed to this and sent him her three conditions, which she has since gone on to campaign for. The first condition was justice for the five women academics who, like herself, were denied promotions seven years ago.
“The President keeps insisting he doesn’t have the power to promote the five women without them winning a court case. But that’s not true,” Dr Sheehy Skeffington said. “The President and the Governing Body have the power to promote whomever they wish. When he’s challenged on this, he then insists that promoting the five will lead to lots of additional claims for promotion. That’s nonsense. Most of the seven men shortlisted and not promoted in 2009 have since been promoted, unlike the five women who are still college lecturers. Even if management were forced to also promote the only two of those men who are still college lecturers, it will still cost the university less than the large salary they are paying the new Vice President for Equality and Diversity!”
The third condition set forth by the campaign requires the university to correct the imbalance between men and women in the subsequent 2013/14 round of promotions, in which Micheline and the five women were again not promoted.
A few days ago, SIPTU issued its own statement regarding the Gender Equality Task Force’s report and its recommendations. SIPTU Equality Committee at NUI Galway spokesperson Maggie Ronayne acknowledged the report’s positive elements, but cited ‘fundamental flaws’.
“The task force and its report are not independent and its focus is too narrow,” Ms Ronayne said, adding that the report “does not tackle the real problems faced by the majority of those working and studying at the university, a majority of whom are women.
“The report fails to address, in any meaningful way, the discrimination and unfair treatment faced by administrative, general operative and technical staff, academics and others on precarious contracts or casually employed, researchers or students. The few recommendations regarding some of these staff or students are token gestures or misguided proposals which may make matters worse.”
The campaign agrees with SIPTU on this point. The improvements just announced for women have to apply to ALL the women working in the university. The full report, which we have been told was amended on Friday after a subcommittee meeting where this criticism was raised, is expected to be published by NUI Galway in a week’s time. We wait to see if these changes are good enough.
Meanwhile, our main response is still “Promote the Five”!