In a press release, reported yesterday by several newspapers including the Irish Independent, NUI Galway trumpeted what they have been doing recently to put right the position of women in the university and other actions for equality. Foremost were the results of the recent promotion round to Senior Lecturer in which 14 men were promoted and 19 women. This is the first time that more women have been promoted than men – even though more Junior Lecturers are women at NUI Galway. This is indeed something to celebrate. Only two promotion rounds ago, sixteen men were promoted and just one woman. That was the round for which Micheline won her historic gender discrimination case which created so much bad publicity for NUI Galway and then for other Irish Universities. That in turn has now lead to this. So yes, let’s celebrate! One of Micheline’s three conditions is being achieved. But only one and it is not there yet.
We can quibble slightly as these figures include the promotion of some University Teachers for the first time, who are mostly female at NUI Galway. But even if you remove these five women, 50% of the remaining Junior Lecturers promoted are women which nearly matches the 53% of them in total who are female. Thus NUI Galway have nearly, but not quite, managed to do what they promised to do in adopting the cascade system of quotas last year – in that system the percentage of women promoted from each level should at least match the percentage of women at that level. So all this is, is a reasonable start.
The improvement has to continue. The next promotion round to Senior Lecturer has to be at least 53% female and if, as NUI Galway claim in their press release, the percentage of female Senior Lecturers is now 40% then the promotions to Professor over the next year should be at least 40% female. Currently only 13% of NUI Galway’s Professors are female. The lowest of any Irish university. Professorships are not given out in rounds but individually. We intend monitoring them and letting you know in a year’s time.
So the celebration can only be one muted cheer. One of Micheline’s three conditions could be on the way to being achieved, if NUI Galway keep it up. But nothing has happened with her other two conditions. Micheline also wanted NUI Galway to correct the gender discrimination which she knew had occurred in the 2008/09 round of promotions and the gender discrimination that she suspected had occurred in the subsequent 2013/14 round. Nothing has been done about either of these. That is why the five women shortlisted in the 2008/09 round and not promoted along with Micheline, who were also, like her, not promoted in 2013/14, eventually were forced to take court cases.
One of those five has now accepted a settlement. Dr Elizabeth Tilley was taking a Labour Court case based on a technicality and any ruling in her favour wouldn’t have been binding on NUI Galway. So she accepted their offer and has been promoted, but not with that promotion back-dated to 2009. The other four women are going to the High Court to challenge the 2008/09 round and the Circuit Court to challenge the 2013/14 round. If they win, and considering Micheline’s win that seems highly likely, their promotion will be back-dated and they will also receive substantial damages. So they are right to turn down the same offer from NUI Galway. That offer included only a ‘route to promotion’ based on an independent assessment of their merit, not guaranteed promotion, and the promotion would only be for this current round. It would not be back-dated to 2009.
The offer NUI Galway made to these five women was deliberately crafted to admit no gender discrimination in 2008/09, only to the promotion of an ineligible candidate as an ‘administrative error’. But the Equality Tribunal ruling in favour of Micheline stated there was gender discrimination in the 2008/09 promotion round and also mentioned the other women. The failure to address this known gender discrimination by NUI Galway is why they should not be awarded the Athena SWAN bronze award when they apply again at the end of November.
NUI Galway are the only Irish university to have been turned down twice for the bronze award. Maynooth is now the only other Irish university yet to receive it and they did not make their second application in April as NUI Galway did, but are applying again at the end of this month. So only NUI Galway has failed like this. We note NUI Galway made no mention of that in their trumpeting equality press release!
They now have a month to get this sorted if they want to get the Athena SWAN award. And it’s so simple. All they have to do is ask for an independent investigation, using non NUI Galway academics appointed by the National University of Ireland, to look into the 2008/09 round of promotions. They still have all the application forms of the short listed candidates because they were part of Micheline’s case. It’s that simple. But until they do, or they simply admit there was gender descrimination in 2008/09 and make a reasonable offer to the women, they should not get the bronze award.