Is NUI Galway deliberately hiding its re-application to Athena SWAN to prevent objections?

On the heels of the successful #SolidariTEA held last week by NUI Galway staff and students in support of the four female lecturers who have taken their battle for promotion to the High Court, we thought an update on the latest round of Athena SWAN applications was warranted.
The word around the university is that NUI Galway submitted a third application for the award by the Nov. 30th deadline. If so, this means NUI Galway took the action despite Micheline’s Open Letter last month and its insistence that the university address the outstanding gender discrimination from the 2008/2009 promotion round before applying again for the award, which recognises academic institutions for their commitment to gender equality. At least a Bronze level is required in order to be eligible to receive research funding from 2019 on.
NUI Galway’s action regarding the application is still unclear because there has been no official statement and the application has not been posted on the university website, as it is supposed to be. This is in contrast to Maynooth University, which not only announced on its website on Dec. 1st, the day after the closing date, that it had resubmitted an application for the award but also posted a copy of its application. Maynooth and NUI Galway are the only universities in Ireland yet to receive Bronze awards. However, this round constitutes Maynooth’s second attempt, not its third as in the case of NUI Galway. Every other Irish university, except NUI Galway, received a Bronze-level award on their second attempt.

Maynooth’s application includes some impressive facts, many of which show up NUI Galway. For instance:

  1. The percentage of professors at Maynooth University who are women has increased to 31%  This is the second-highest in the sector. At NUI Galway, just 13% of professors are female — the lowest in the sector.
  2. Based on feedback from its 2015 application, Maynooth University conducted a ‘culture’ survey  that included 106 survey questions and space for detailed comments. As far as we know, NUI Galway has undertaken no survey of its staff for its third application.
The campaign suspects that NUI Galway is deliberately avoiding letting anyone know about its Athena SWAN application in order to prevent objections. This would not be without precedent: NUI Galway posted its second application only after it was turned down. Until the rejection, the university had posted an incomplete draft.

Our campaign will find out the date that objections must be submitted by and will let you know. It looks like one objection could be NUI Galway’s failure to make its application available. Watch this space!


Today’s #solidariTEA to support the women lecturers a huge success!!

sdrToday’s #solidariTEA event at NUI Galway supporting the women taking court cases had over 300 participants, we hear. It was organised by the University Women’s Network along with the Students Union, Fem Soc, Gender Arc and others. It ran from 10am to noon in the large lobby of the Orbsen Building. Participants brought cakes and other goodies.

Micheline was there but it had nothing to do with this campaign and we did not promote it. That was deliberate as Jim Browne has taken to saying the women have little support; that it’s just Micheline and a few others making a fuss. Well this event proved just how wrong he is! And their support is not just in NUI Galway. Other universities also held events at the same time. There was even one in the Oireachtas this morning with TDs and senators there! This tweet was sent by Ivana Bacik, Labour senator. As Catherine


Martin TD for the Green Party who also tweeted pointed out, it was a cross party event.

Check out #solidariTEA on twitter. There are tweets with pictures of others who joined the event, tea and cake in hand, from Irish universities, UL, UCD, TCD, DCU, plus the Royal College of Surgeons and abroad from The Hague, London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and even Hong Kong, San Francisco and Santiago in Chile! Well done the organisers. Here is another tweet, this one from two of the NUIG students who supported the event.

student tweet


And here is the article in tomorrow’s Irish Times.


NUI Galway response to Open Letter fails to refute anything Micheline wrote!

NUI Galway’s response in the media to Micheline’s Open Letter is very interesting and worth studying carefully. Galway Bay FM and the Connacht Tribune both reported that NUI Galway stated there is ‘no connection whatsoever’ between their unsuccessful applications and the legal cases of four colleagues, and that NUI Galway has complied in full with the decision relating to Dr Sheehy Skeffington, but it does not provide a basis to promote any other individual. But Micheline did not actually make either claim in her Open Letter (have a look). She simply told the committee that NUI Galway should not reapply for the Athena SWAN award without addressing the known gender discrimination resulting from the curropt 2008/09 promotion round and if they were to apply without doing this, then NUI Galway should be turned down again by Athena SWAN and that this would lead to the loss of government research grant funding.

In fact, the press reports include no rebuttal by NUI Galway of anything Micheline actually wrote in her Open Letter. There is no denial that her Equality Tribunal ruling highlighted gender discrimination affecting other women shortlisted in the 2008/09 promotion round. There is also no denial that there was further gender discrimination which was not mentioned in the ruling. And there is no denial that any such gender discrimination should be dealt with before applying again for the Athena SWAN award.

Also both things NUI Galway refute could not, in fact, have happened. Athena SWAN could not have turned down NUI Galway for the Bronze award because of any legal cases as they have not been decided yet. But Athena SWAN must refuse NUI Galway the Bronze award if the university is not dealing with known gender discrimination.

Similarly, the Equality Tribunal ruling could not have required NUI Galway to promote anyone other than the individual taking the case. That was outside of its remit and would have led to the ruling being challenged by NUI Galway.  But the Equality Tribunal could highlight gender discrimination against other women involved in that round in justifying its ruling in favour of Micheline, which is what it did. The Equality Tribunal ruling also deliberately confines itself to examples of gender discrimination that it would be difficult to challenge as part of an appeal by NUI Galway and so omits examples such as the fast tracking of three men that we have revealed. NUI Galway management know about these other instances as they attended the Equality Tribunal hearing held behind closed doors. Their team included someone who is now on the Athena SWAN committee preparing NUI Galway’s application. That is something else NUI Galway did not refute.



Micheline’s open letter published today in Galway’s City Tribune

Micheline’s open letter was published today in the Galway City Tribune. It’s a long letter which they published in full. It’s also appeared on several sites on line. Please help by circulating it using emails or social media.

Everyone will now come to understand that it’s management’s intransigence which is threatening NUI Galway’s research funding, not the five women we support, and management are going to have to give in and finally correct the gender discrimination.

We hear it’s just three men in management who are holding out and it’s now simply about saving face. They said it could not be done, then they said this was absolutely their final offer. But now they have to recognise how big this issue has become – because of their intransigence. At the recent University Women’s Network AGM, those attending sat at tables, each with a moderator. Each table was asked to list the issues in NUI Galway they thought important for the Network to engage with. Every single table put Justice for the Five Women Lecturers as the most important!

It’s OK guy’s, we’re all wrong sometimes. It’s human. Put the gender discrimination right and we can all move!


Here’s a photo of the letter in the Galway City Tribune, who we’d like to thank whole heartedly. They have stuck with this issue through thick and thin, fearlessly, even though the university press office stooped inviting them to press events and sending them press releases because of it.  Buy the Galway City Tribune!


Micheline’s open letter to NUI Galway’s Athena SWAN committee

Micheline sent this letter addressed to the Chair of NUI Galway’s Athena SWAN committee on the third anniversary of her 2014 landmark gender discrimination case ruling. It is a very important letter. By making it public, Micheline is ensuring the intransigence of university management will be clear for all to see. If NUI Galway reapply for an Athena SWAN Bronze award without addressing the injustice outstanding from her case and again do not receive the award, then they will rightly be seen as at fault for endangering the university’s research funding — not the five women we support.

This letter has also been sent to newspapers for publication.

Dear Professor Scott,

I write to you as the Chair of NUI Galway’s Athena SWAN committee as I understand the committee is considering another application for the Athena SWAN gender equality Bronze award for which NUI Galway was turned down last month for the second time.  

I write because NUI Galway’s preparation for the next application must include the correction of the ongoing gender discrimination caused by the corrupt 2008/09 round of promotions to Senior Lecturer. The Equality Tribunal ruling in my favour concerning this round stated that there was both ‘direct and indirect discrimination’ in terms of gender in that promotion round. The ruling singles out three of the other five women who were deemed suitable and not promoted, as having been subject to indirect discrimination. Of the other two, one was ranked higher than me by the promotion board and one was ranked equal. These facts alone are sufficient to warrant NUI Galway seeking to investigate that round, which they have refused to do. However, as the Equality Tribunal was held behind closed doors, there was much more revealed which is not in the public domain. NUI Galway management was there, including a member of your committee, so they know, as I do, how seven less-qualified men were promoted over us six women. They also know the real reason why they allowed the short-listing of the man who was also ineligible to apply. This blatant discrimination was why the top 16 candidates ranked by the board to be promoted were all men, even though 52% of College Lecturers were women. The promotion board then opted to increase the number promoted to 17, to include one woman.    

This gender discrimination is not simply confined to an incident in 2009; it is ongoing, as most of the men promoted in 2009 have since received Professorships and one was made a College Dean. By failing to promote the women who should have been promoted instead of some of these men, NUI Galway excluded us from the opportunity to receive the support and grant funding that comes with being a Senior Lecturer and the opportunity to be appointed Professor or to prestigious roles in the university. The treatment of women in this way has led to NUI Galway having the lowest percentage of female Professors in Ireland and one of the lowest in Europe: 13%. It also explains why no College Deans or heads of major Research Institutes are female.

I accept that your committee cannot address all past gender discrimination in the university. But in this case, where you know there is proof that it happened and how, and where it is possible to correct it and its ongoing effects, NUI Galway must address this before they re-apply for the Athena SWAN Bronze award and your committee should be telling the Governing Body this.

The simplest way to right this discrimination is to promote the five women backdated to 2009, and to compensate them, as I was. In addition, they should be assessed for a Professorship in a way that accounts for the great disadvantages they experienced in not being promoted to Senior Lecturer, now almost nine years ago. NUI Galway management has said it does not have the power to promote the women but I dispute this, as all five women were deemed eligible for promotion on being shortlisted, but told there were insufficient places. If management continues to insist it cannot promote the women backdated to 2009, then a higher outside body, such as the National University of Ireland, should be asked to set up an independent committee of non-NUI Galway academics to investigate the corrupt 2008/09 promotion round, reviewing the application forms of all those shortlisted and with the power to call for evidence from all those involved. For this investigation to be seen as fair and independent it is essential that NUI Galway management not be involved with setting it up in any way, and that the findings be published in full.

Today is the third anniversary of my original Equality Tribunal ruling. I have been striving over these three years to have this injustice addressed while the five women concerned have also sought an amicable resolution to this discrimination. It is totally unacceptable the NUI Galway management has still not corrected this injustice. Until it does, NUI Galway should not receive an Athena SWAN award, and if that means the university loses research funding, it is entirely management’s fault.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington

Three years later and women are still fighting for justice at NUI Galway!

Today is the third anniversary of Micheline’s historic win for gender equality.

It was Nov. 13, 2014, when the Equality Tribunal issued its landmark ruling concluding that Micheline was discriminated against because of her gender when she was not promoted at NUI Galway in 2009, citing the university’s ‘ramshackle approach to the process’. That promotion round saw 16 men but only one woman promoted to Senior Lecturer, even though 52% of Junior Lecturers were women. Yet what has NUI Galway done since then to right the injustice against women in academia? Five other women who applied for promotion in the 2008-2009 round were exposed to the same injustices as Micheline — four of them are STILL fighting for promotion! Let’s review what has happened in the three years since the ruling.

Micheline’s win was the first time any woman in academia in Ireland or the UK had proved gender discrimination in promotion. It was major news in both countries on TV and radio and in newspapers and was followed by the release in early December 2014 of statistics gathered by Ireland’s Higher Education Authority showing the percentage of women at each level in Irish universities. The low percentage of women in senior academic positions resulted in another massive amount of publicity and genuine shock that Ireland was so poor in this sector, which had been assumed to be more enlightened. In fact, Ireland proved to be one of the worst countries in Europe for the university glass-ceiling index, which puts a spotlight on the lack of women in senior academic posts.

Having won her case and produced all this publicity, Micheline met with NUI Galway President Dr Jim Browne. She thought that telling him all she had found out through the case, much of which had not been made public and would be even more embarrassing to NUI Galway, would result in the five other women shortlisted in the 2008-2009 round being promoted. When he refused, she felt she had no alternative but to donate her €70,000 award to the five women so they could file court cases as they were out of time to go to the Equality Tribunal. When the media discovered her offer, there was even more publicity that first week of December.

That same week, Jim Browne indicated he would set up a Task Force to look into the discrimination of women at NUI Galway. He insisted the move was coincidental, planned before Micheline’s win and the bad publicity. Making things worse, he claimed to RTE NEWS that Micheline had agreed to be appointed to the Task Force. It was this claim which led to Micheline setting her Three Conditions before she would agree to serve on the Task Force. These conditions were: promotion for the five other women, correct the gender bias in the subsequent 2013-2014 promotion round, and ensure that future rounds promote the same proportion of women as there are at the level from which they are being promoted.

Micheline then gave a speech about her case in a lecture theatre which proved nowhere near large enough to hold all the staff and students who came to hear her speak. It was there that this Equality Campaign was founded to support her and the achievement of her Three Conditions. As we are not NUI Galway staff, but students, former students and others, we have been able to organise things which would have been difficult for staff to undertake. We set up a petition on, which as of this morning has 4,085 signatures; we undertook poster campaigns in the university highlighting the gender bias there. Most famously, we sponsored a cartoon exhibition that NUI Galway took down in the middle of the night but then relented and allowed us to put it up again after the resulting bad publicity.

Meanwhile, the five women had been meeting with university management to try to resolve the injustice, to no avail. In their first meeting with Jim Browne, he told them he ‘could not and would not promote them’ and that they did not deserve promotion. In the second, attended by the Chair of the Governing Body, Catherine McGuinness, they were told that they had to prove they deserved the promotion in court and warned by Chairperson McGuinness that they might not win. One of the women decided to pursue her case separately in the Labour Court, but four of the women initiated a High Court case in April 2015 that the university then sought to have thrown out. It was this hypocrisy that resulted in the Equality Campaign’s very successful benefit concert in March 2016 to raise money for the women’s High Court action and to highlight a demonstration against NUI Galway’s hypocrisy outside the court that May. NUI Galway’s response, three days before the planned demo, was to enter into mediation with the four women. But the mediation proved to be only a tactic to avoid the demonstration – the offer made to the women was not reasonable – and a new date for the High Court pre-hearing was set for March of next year.

Something else which came out of the initial publicity about Micheline’s historic win was the Expert Panel set up by Ireland’s Higher Education Authority to make recommendations on what to do about gender discrimination at Ireland’s universities. Again the man setting it up, chief executive John Boland, insisted at the time, like Jim Browne with his Task Force, that this move was purely coincidental and something he had always intended to do. The panel recommended in a report published in June 2016 (see Page 76 of report) that all future government research funding to Irish universities be dependent on receiving an Athena SWAN award. The first hurdle set by the funding bodies was achieving the Bronze level by 2019. In September, NUI Galway became the first Irish university to be turned down for the second time for the Bronze award, with the court cases filed by the women cited. All the other universities by then had received the award, except Maynooth, which plans to submit a second application this month.

All this pressure has resulted in some progress at NUI Galway. Last month, one of the five women accepted an offer which gave her a promotion now rather than backdated to 2009. A week later, NUI Galway announced the results of the university’s recent gender-corrected promotion round to Senior Lecturer, saying 58% were women. However, as we pointed out in our post, in actuality, 50% of those promoted were female. Still, this is a positive result that we believe is down to the pressure from this campaign. When earlier this year, NUI Galway announced a quota of 40% for women, we made much of how this was actually only 1% higher than the previous promotion round had achieved. With this latest result, finally the first of Micheline’s Three Conditions was on its way to being fulfilled. Though, as we pointed out, there was still a lot NUI Galway had to do to complete it.

Micheline, who returns on the 22nd of this month from her US tour, has told us that she is now even more determined to ensure that all five women who filed the court cases get all they deserve. She believes that it is their bravery in challenging NUI Galway that has allowed the changes for Irish academic women that have occurred over the last three years. So now we must all ensure they get what they have been fighting for.

Micheline’s first action will be an Open Letter to NUI Galway’s Athena SWAN team, to be sent from the West Coast of the US where she is now staying, stating that NUI Galway must resolve the injustice of the discriminatory 2008-2009 promotion round before the university applies again for an Athena SWAN award. This is her first move in ensuring that NUI Galway does not receive the award unless the university corrects this past gender discrimination. If NUI Galway applies without doing this, she will, with our help, be calling on supporters to flood the Athena SWAN organisation with objections to NUI Galway’s application. We will be publishing her Open Letter once it has been sent. Watch this space!






Wonderful Article on Micheline, her Tour and the Campaign in the Daily Mail Colour Magazine

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This article was not available online so we have copied it here. As is obvious, the interview with Micheline occurred before she left for America. The five women she is campaigning have still to get the promotions they deserve but the situation has moved on. To read what is happening now at NUI Galway see this post  Thank you Irish Daily Mail and Jenny Friel for such a nice piece of work.