With the settlement of the four women’s High Court cases, the aims of this campaign are achieved. The campaign started when previous University President Jim Browne claimed to RTE education reporter Emma O’Kelly that Micheline Sheehy Skeffington, who had recently won her high-profile case, was on his new Gender Equality Task Force. It was a lie which Micheline used to declare three conditions needed for her to join. When he refused to agree to them, she called an open meeting. At that meeting, this campaign was formed to achieve those three conditions:
Condition 1. That NUI Galway promotes the five other women who, along with Dr Sheehy Skeffington, were interviewed, deemed suitable, but not promoted in 2009.
Dr Elizabeth Tilly was promoted last year as a result of the Labour Court case she took over the 2009 promotion round, Dr Adrienne Gorman was promoted through the 2016/17 promotion round, and the settlement of the High Court cases taken by Dr Róisín Healy, Dr Margaret Hodgins and Dr Sylvie Lannegrand along with Dr Gorman includes their promotion to Senior Lecturer. So all five women have now been promoted.
Condition 2. That NUI Galway puts right the subsequent promotion round to Senior Lecturer in 2014 in a way which ensures gender balance among the successful candidates.
The only women to challenge this round in court were the same four women who took the High Court cases. They took parallel cases in the District Court under the Equality Act (for which they were out of time for the 2009 round) . In settling their High Court cases, they agreed to withdraw these other cases.
Condition 3. That NUI Galway starts to address the issue of gender imbalance in senior posts by adopting a policy of promoting the same percentage of women from each level as the percentage of women at that level.
This policy was adopted by NUI Galway in 2016. NUI Galway was the first Irish or British university to adopt a quota system to address gender imbalance. The University then announced that the 2016/17 quota would be only 40%, rising at the following promotion round to 50%. We made much of the fact that 40% was only a 1% improvement on the previous round. For the actual round, 50% of those promoted were female.
NUI Galway has continued to improve the situation for female academics, part of profound changes occurring for all women employed in Irish higher education, ensured by the threat from government to withhold research grants if they are not made. We believe all this came about, first through Micheline’s Equality Tribunal win, but also crucially by the continuing media coverage made possible by the four women taking High Court cases.
We also believe that the four women’s settlement was down to that publicity, much of which we created, not their lawyers. In the upcoming court case, NUI Galway was attempting to have the women’s cases thrown out on a technicality and could well have succeeded. However, having seen how large our demonstration was likely to be outside the High Court — the holding of which was stopped by the last-minute deferral for arbitration — NUI Galway, we now know, decided they had to avoid any further hearings because of all the bad publicity.
The day after the settlement at the High Court, Micheline met with the four women. She tweeted this picture of her with Adrienne, Sylvie, Margaret and Róisín.
At their meeting they agreed what that would like to do with the money raised by this campaign for legal fees. They will explore how to set set up a fund to support other women, including admin and support staff, with employment issues at NUI Galway, particularly those on short-term contracts.
They also agreed to have a celebratory party, but in October, to give time for everyone to recover, to which they hope as many supporters as possible will come!
When we know more about both, we will post it here.
Irish society has been changed for the better and none of what has happened would have been possible without your support, however apparently minor it may seem to you. We now know that NUI Galway started to really fear what this campaign could do once we had that benefit concert with 800 people at it. It doesn’t take much to scare bullies! All you have to do is have the courage to stand up to them.