Tag Archives: browne

Government task force on gender bias welcomed, but at NUI Galway and other Irish Universities, it helps to look at where the power is

In July, the Higher Education Authority issued this year’s figures for gender percentages in Irish Universities and other higher-education institutions. Because this Web page focused on the four female lecturers’ mediation coming to an end at NUI Galway, we made no comment on the HEA report – and we didn’t produce an updated version of our table ranking the Irish Universities. But we found we didn’t need to: This year’s HEA figures got a lot more media coverage than last year’s, including Page One of The Sunday Times and most reports, including RTE‘s, singled out NUI Galway for still being the worst. It’s even come to the attention of the French science monitoring service!

As a result, we were pleased to hear the announcement by Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor that she would be setting up a Task Force and was inclined to implement gender quotas in promotion to correct the imbalance in Irish Universities. We hope the Minister will note what happened at NUI Galway when an Equality Task Force was appointed in 2015. President Jim Browne made much of the Task Force and the resulting adoption of gender quotas at NUI Galway. But where are we two years later? We have a new promotion round this year from Junior to Senior Lecturer where the gender quota adopted is 40% – just 1% higher than the percentage of women promoted in the last round and 12% lower than the percentage of Junior Lecturers who are women. If it is to have any meaningful effect, the minimum gender quota adopted by the new Task Force must, at the very least, reflect the percentage of women in the positions from which they are being promoted. The quotas should also apply to appointments from outside.

NUI Galway has a sorry record of proclaiming improvements for women and then backtracking on its commitments – as Micheline keeps pointing out.  President Browne also likes to claim that the 2015 HEA report into gender discrimination, commissioned shortly after his Task Force was formed, somehow came about through his efforts and not because of Micheline’s Equality Tribunal win. That HEA report made many excellent recommendations, including regarding the appointment of University presidents, which it considered critical in order to effect real change in the third-level sector. Regarding appointment criteria for president, candidates should have ‘demonstrable experience of leadership in advancing gender equality’ and this should be ‘included in the recruitment criteria and the framework for evaluating the performance of candidates’ (p. 47). We have learned that, at a meeting where the process of the replacement of Jim Browne as President was discussed, NUIG Governing Body instructed NUIG management to implement this HEA recommendation. However, it was subsequently ignored, as is apparent from the ad and on-line brochure for the NUIG presidency. It says it all. So much for NUI Galway being ahead of the curve on correcting gender discrimination.

Everything we’ve seen so far at NUI Galway has been window dressing to make it look like the University is doing something when actually it is doing very little. They created a Vice President for Equality and Diversity and then must have given her a very limited brief. So, as well as rolling out a hugely expensive unconscious bias training programme, which has yet to prove its worth, they have increased the number of women on some committees and on the management team, so that at least some percentages look good.

However, if you want to assess change, you should look at where the power is. It was notable in the recent HEA figures that every single Irish university continues to have a man as President – as they always have. At NUI Galway, every College Dean, virtually every head of a Research Institute as well as the Registrar – the only posts with real power besides the President – is still a man, despite at least a dozen appointments in the last couple of years. Things will have changed when half of them are women.

We gather that the final short-list for the Presidency comprises seven candidates, of whom two are women. What are the chances of either woman being offered the post?

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Hanna and Me: Passing on the Flame: There are only 12 days left to raise the amount needed to fund the documentary film about the centenary of Hanna Sheehy Skeffington’s courageous speaking tour of the US in 1917. To help Micheline follow her grandmother and tell her own campaign story in the US, please support the crowdfunding here.

 

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One down, two to go!!!

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Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington tweeted her opinion regarding the acceptance by NUIG of the Gender Equality Task Force report and its recommendations, including gender quotas, but still no promotion of the five women academics.

Two NUI Galway unions have joined the Micheline’s Three Conditions campaign in welcoming NUI Galway’s Governing Body’s unanimous adoption today of the Gender Equality Task Force report. One of the report’s main recommendations requires gender quotas for promotion to senior academic staff at the university, which fulfills one of the three conditions demanded by the campaign.

However, NUI Galway Students’ Union and IFUT, the academic staff union, along with Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington voiced their serious concerns that the five women academics who have been forced to take their gender discrimination cases to the courts still have not been promoted. Additionally, SIPTU, the other staff union, which faulted the report and the task force that wrote it, saying it was biased and non-independent, also supports the campaign’s demand that the five be promoted.

The Students’ Union, IFUT and the Micheline’s Three Conditions campaign issued a joint statement saying they are deeply worried that NUI Galway management’s only real concern is to stop the bad publicity it has received, without actually addressing a structure which is deeply misogynist and unfair to women.

“Management must also promote the five women who were shortlisted, deemed eligible and not promoted along with Dr Sheehy Skeffington in the 2008/9 round of promotions to Senior Lecturer, rather than take cases to the High Court,” the statement says, pointing out that only one woman was promoted in that round against 16 men, amounting to just 6.7% of the female candidates who applied, compared to 50% of male candidates.

“We insist NUI Galway management ends its intransigence and promotes the five other women. We will continue to jointly campaign for this to happen until NUI Galway does so,” the statement ends.

The Údarás unanimously accepted the final report from the task force looking into gender inequality in senior posts at the university, and its 24 evidence-based recommendations. Two main recommendations are:

-All committees and working groups at the University should have a minimum of 40 per cent of women by the end of this year, while 50 per cent of the chairs of these influential committees should be women by late 2018.

-Mandatory gender quotas are required to ensure more women are promoted to senior academic posts.

The report, written by Prof. Jane Grimson of TCD, recommends that the gender quotas follow a cascade system for the promotion of female academics. The Údarás mandated the newly appointed Vice President for Equality & Diversity to develop an Implementation Plan to be brought to the governing body this Autumn.

The acceptance of the report is the first time that any Irish university, educational institution, state or semi-state body has adopted mandatory quotas to address the lack of women in senior posts.

The use of gender quotas would satisfy one of the original conditions demanded by the Micheline’s Three Conditions campaign. Since then, Micheline has said that this improvement must be implemented fully for all academic and non-academic university staff. The cascade system of gender quotas was first suggested by Dr Sheehy Skeffington as a fair solution to one of three conditions that she wanted met by NUI Galway. Dr Sheehy Skeffington won a landmark gender discrimination case against the university in 2014. Because of the resulting bad publicity, NUI Galway President Jim Browne set up the task force and claimed that Dr Sheehy Skeffington was on it. She had never agreed to this and sent him her three conditions, which she has since gone on to campaign for. The first condition was justice for the five women academics who, like herself, were denied promotions seven years ago.

“The President keeps insisting he doesn’t have the power to promote the five women without them winning a court case. But that’s not true,” Dr Sheehy Skeffington said. “The President and the Governing Body have the power to promote whomever they wish. When he’s challenged on this, he then insists that promoting the five will lead to lots of additional claims for promotion. That’s nonsense. Most of the seven men shortlisted and not promoted in 2009 have since been promoted, unlike the five women who are still college lecturers. Even if management were forced to also promote the only two of those men who are still college lecturers, it will still cost the university less than the large salary they are paying the new Vice President for Equality and Diversity!”

The third condition set forth by the campaign requires the university to correct the imbalance between men and women in the subsequent 2013/14 round of promotions, in which Micheline and the five women were again not promoted.

A few days ago, SIPTU issued its own statement regarding the Gender Equality Task Force’s report and its recommendations. SIPTU Equality Committee at NUI Galway spokesperson Maggie Ronayne acknowledged the report’s positive elements, but cited ‘fundamental flaws’.

“The task force and its report are not independent and its focus is too narrow,” Ms Ronayne said, adding that the report “does not tackle the real problems faced by the majority of those working and studying at the university, a majority of whom are women.

“The report fails to address, in any meaningful way, the discrimination and unfair treatment faced by administrative, general operative and technical staff, academics and others on precarious contracts or casually employed, researchers or students. The few recommendations regarding some of these staff or students are token gestures or misguided proposals which may make matters worse.”

The campaign agrees with SIPTU on this point. The improvements just announced for women have to apply to ALL the women working in the university. The full report, which we have been told was amended on Friday after a subcommittee meeting where this criticism was raised, is expected to be published by NUI Galway in a week’s time. We wait to see if these changes are good enough.

Meanwhile, our main response is still “Promote the Five”!