New era at NUI Galway: Let’s hope it bodes well for women’s promotions

A new era has begun at NUI Galway. We hope it becomes the era of gender equality where the women who have filed discrimination suits against the university are – after what is now a nine-year wait – finally promoted.

Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, a Galway native, took over as president of the university this month, ending the 10-year reign of Dr Jim Browne.

Dr Browne gave a stunning parting interview to Cois Coiribe, NUI Galway’s annual magazine for alumni, that at best could be described as hypocritical.

‘My one regret is that we did not address the equality issue sooner,’ Dr Browne said, adding that he hopes the university becomes a leader in gender equality. He went on to explain that the university recognises now that the issue is a ‘general social problem and is systemic’.

Incredibly, he added: ‘Unfortunately, our focus was on academic promotions and seeking to achieve better outcomes for women in that domain.’

Really? Tell that to the four women who are STILL fighting in the High Court for their right to be promoted from Junior Lecturer to Senior Lecturer after they were denied promotions in the 2008-2009 round. Or tell that to Dr Elizabeth Tilley, who was also overlooked for promotion in that round but was finally promoted in October 2017 after taking her gender discrimination case to the Labour Court. Or tell that to Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington, another victim of gender discrimination from that same promotion round, who was not promoted until November 2014 after the Equality Tribunal ruled she was discriminated against both directly and indirectly.

In the interview, reported by Dara Bradley in the Jan. 19th edition of the Connacht Tribune, Dr Browne went on to point out the progress made at NUI Galway, including the appointment in February 2016 of Professor Anne Scott as vice president for Equality and Diversity and the adoption of her gender equality report’s recommendations, which he said are being implemented.

‘We want to ensure that more women are promoted to senior posts and to ensure that equality of opportunity is afforded to all our staff and students,’ Dr Browne said.

The campaign believes that this sentiment would have been a lot more sincere if the university had acknowledged the discrimination against women by promoting them. Instead, the women were forced to go to court at their expense as well as taxpayers’ expense with the university wasting money that could have been put to better use to benefit students, staff and programmes. Nevertheless, we are confident that the four women still fighting in the High Court will be promoted – with back pay to 2009.

There is one statement voiced by Dr Browne that we couldn’t fault.

‘We know organisations with gender diversity in the senior ranks make better decisions and ultimately perform better,’ he said.

Well, at least he’s learnt that.

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