The Campaign has learned that NUI Galway has resubmitted its application for an Athena SWAN Bronze award. The university’s application for the gender equality award was rejected in 2015, in the first round open to Irish institutions.
Such an award recognises that the “institution has a solid foundation for eliminating gender bias and developing an inclusive culture that values all staff.” The Higher Education Authority last year stipulated that Irish universities should obtain at least a Bronze award if they are to continue receiving certain funds.
The Campaign feels strongly that NUI Galway does not deserve the award because it has failed to recognise key improvements it needs to make to eliminate discrimination against women. To date, everything NUI Galway has implemented has been to improve the University’s image without addressing the real problem of the culture of exclusion.
An Athena SWAN Bronze award is given to an institution that “recognises a solid foundation for eliminating gender bias and developing an inclusive culture that values all staff: that includes [inter alia] [….] identifying both challenges and opportunities.” The key ‘challenges’ not addressed are outlined below.
Micheline will be sending a letter of objection regarding NUI Galway’s application to the UK-based Equality Challenge Unit (ECU), which manages the Athena SWAN awards. We urge any supporters who feel as we do, particularly if they are a member of staff, student or ex-student of NUI Galway, to also send a letter of objection.
Please send your objections to firstname.lastname@example.org no later than May 17th. They should be no more than 1,000 words.
The objections must be based on aspects of gender equality that the University is failing to address. Personal examples that you may know of are particularly useful. We would suggest the following points. If you have the time, it would be better to put these points in your own words rather than cut and paste them:
1) — The extreme gender imbalance that occurred in the round of promotions to Senior Lecturer in 2008/09 – 16 men (50% of candidates) and only one woman (6.7% of candidates) – has never been addressed by the University even though it has accepted in its submission that there was a problem. Six women were deemed suitable for promotion in that round, but not ranked high enough to be promoted. Subsequently, Micheline Sheehy Skeffington won a case in November 2014 at the Equality Tribunal on the grounds of gender discrimination and was promoted. Her Tribunal ruling made it abundantly clear that the issues were wider than just her case. In the Tribunal Conclusions (Section 4), the ruling mentions seven men against whom she compared more favourably, but who received higher scores than she did. In addition, three of the other five women are specifically mentioned as having been subject to indirect discrimination on the grounds of gender.
a. The University has never attempted to address this obvious case of gender discrimination and has never conducted an internal investigation of that promotion round. The five women also deemed suitable took court cases only after exhausting all other avenues over six months of trying to get the University to deal with the issue. Therefore, the court cases cannot be used as an excuse by NUI Galway for not addressing this issue. Provision for an independent investigation is made in the form of a Visitor under the Universities Act. Such an investigation should be part of the NUIG self-assessment for addressing gender imbalance in the institution.
2) — NUI Galway policy is now to have at least 40% women in key decision-making positions (see Section 4.4. Organisation & Culture of NUI Galway application).
a. But in the past two years, four of the five male College Deans have been replaced — by four more men. (The College Deans are the Deans with the real power at the University.)
b. The Academic Council, the University’s top academic decision-making body, is still more than 80 percent male. Of the 150 Council members, 121 are men, which amounts to 80.7%, and 29 are women, which amounts to 19.3%.
c. More than 95% of new directors of Institutes and research programmes at the University are men.
d. Therefore, this policy has not resulted in any substantial change in the representation of women in many of the important decision-making roles.
3) — July 2016 HEA figures show that NUI Galway ranks a clear last of all third-level institutions with 21% female senior staff (Senior Lecturers and Professors). The Irish universities with the highest percentage of female senior staff are Limerick (33%) and Trinity (31%). The rest are: UCD (30%); Maynooth (29%); DCU (27%) and Cork (26%). Highlighting the gender bias further at NUI Galway, only 12% of its Professors are women while 52% of its Junior Lecturers are women.
a. There has been no substantive change in the percentage of females at the Professor level over the last three years and the number of female Senior Lecturers has fallen since 2015 (see Table 3.2.1 of NUI Galway application).
4) — The mandatory 40% female quota being adopted for the next promotion round is only 1% higher than the percentage of women promoted in the last round (2013/14, see Table 4.3.1 of NUI Galway application). This is not a sufficient policy shift to bring about change and does not reflect the more than 50% female lecturers at the level below that.
Here is the link for NUI Galway’s draft submission: https://www.nuigalway.ie/media/nuigalwayie/content/files/aboutus/DRAFT-Athena-SWAN-Application-March-2017.pdf
The website also includes a copy of an undated “Report on the Athena SWAN Culture Survey.” https://www.nuigalway.ie/media/nuigalwayie/content/files/aboutus/Athena-SWAN-Culture-Survey-report.pdf
The Campaign would like to point out another discrepancy here. The introduction of the report refers to the Culture Survey conducted by the Self-Assessment Team in March 2015. Why wasn’t a Culture Survey conducted in 2017?
The Guidelines for Athena SWAN awards are here: http://www.ecu.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Athena-SWAN-Charter-Post-May-2015-guide-to-processes.pdf. NB submissions must not be anonymous and will be sent to NUI Galway for a response, if considered valid.
Micheline Sheehy Skeffington’s Equality Tribunal Ruling can be read here: http://www.workplacerelations.ie/en/Cases/2014/November/DEC-E2014-078.html