Tag Archives: nui galway

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.


Law journal article examines fallout from Sheehy Skeffington case, says implementation is key for change

  • The Sheehy Skeffington v NUI Galway decision helped expose systemic gender discrimination at Irish universities.
  • The landmark ruling led to the Higher Education Authority issuing a Gender Equality Review with recommendations for bringing about the radical change needed to ensure gender equality.
  • Unless implemented, the recommendations change nothing.

These are some of the main points of ‘Disrupting the Status Quo? Discrimination in Academic Promotions’, an eight-page article by Dr Shivaun Quinlivan, NUI Galway law lecturer, for the Irish Employment Law Journal.

While the HEA’s Gender Equality Review is in many respects radical, Dr Quinlivan concludes, ‘without implementation it is merely a report gathering dust on the shelves.’

The article, published last July, brings to the fore the core issues and requirements for effecting real change for gender equality in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in Ireland by examining the Sheehy Skeffington case, which ‘has had repercussions far beyond the actual decision.’

In addition to referencing the Equality Tribunal’s characterisation of the Senior Lecturer interview process as ‘ramshackle’, the article outlined the bias in favour of men during the 2008-2009 Senior Lecturer promotion round during which 17 people were promoted – 16 men and 1 woman.

The article is the first clear acknowledgement of the combined effects of the Micheline’s Three Conditions campaign and the SIPTU equality campaign.

Essentially, the article looks at:

  1. The wider effects of the ruling in Micheline’s case, which proved direct and indirect discrimination, and was ‘significantly more far reaching’ than Dr Sheehy Skeffington, leading to lawsuits filed by five other women as well as the HEA report.
  2. How the next highest-ranked applicant (Dr Elizabeth Tilley) should never have had to take her case to court after it was revealed that one of the successful candidates wasn’t even eligible for promotion.
  3. The furor over the discrimination raised by SIPTU and the Micheline’s Three Conditions Campaign.
  4. The HEA report’s emphasis on the need for an ‘organisational and cultural shift’, noting that the authors of the report would ‘not have believed it necessary’ to have to make such radical recommendations.
  5. How the ‘disparity of power and position’ (with respect to gender) across the HEI sector is highlighted in the report.
  6. The cascade system for gender quotas* and how there is resistance even from women despite studies proving they increase, not decrease, excellence. (*One of Micheline’s Three Conditions).
  7. The glass ceiling is noted as being clearly between Lecturer and Senior Lecturer, not at the Professor level.

The Quinlivan article also mentions the HEA recommendation stating that funding should be contingent on the institution receiving a minimum Bronze Athena SWAN award. NUI Galway, which has yet to achieve Bronze level, submitted its third application for such an award in November 2017.

The article’s emphasis on the need to change the culture of an institution is significant as such change is not quantifiable in easy metrics, a factor picked up by the HEA report:

http://hea.ie/assets/uploads/2017/04/hea_review_of_gender_equality_in_irish_higher_education.pdf  on p. 17.

Dr Quinlivan’s article can be read in full here.

Also of interest is that in the most recent HEA report (July 2017; http://hea.ie/assets/uploads/2017/07/HEA-Institutional-Staff-Profiles-Gender-July-2017-003.pdf), Athena SWAN awards applied for or obtained are listed for each institution.

We post the NUI Galway Athena SWAN application

The campaign has been sent NUI Galway’s Athena SWAN application. This is the application that was submitted by the closing date of November 30th but which has failed to appear, or even be acknowledged, on NUI Galway’s Athena SWAN web page. This is the application they haven’t sent to Micheline and others who have asked for a copy, deliberately hindering any objections. Their action is in contrast to Maynooth University’s open announcement and application publication on Dec 1st.

Because NUI Galway won’t post their application on their web page, we have posted it below. Please note the line on Page 14: drafts of the application and action plan were circulated to all staff’. We know for a fact that that statement is not true.

If you have not submitted an objection yet, then please do. Just a simple line saying ‘NUI Galway should address the gender discrimination resulting from the ’08/’09 round of promotions to Senior Lecturer before they are given the award’ is enough. You can cite Micheline’s Open Letter for the details (which Athena SWAN have). Send it to athenaswan@ecu.ac.uk.

If you want to add other objections, like the untruth we pointed out above and/or the withholding of the application, then please do. Or perhaps you could cite the fact that no woman has been appointed to posts with any power: the new President is a man, the recently appointed College Deans have all been men, the recently appointed heads of research institutes, e.g., the Ryan Institute, have all been men.

Athena SWAN have now written to a supporter that objections need not be in by the end of this week, but by their return after the New Year.

We can’t tell you who sent us the application, but we can say we are very grateful.

Athena Swan Bronze Institution Application_NUIG_Nov17 submitted 30th Nov 2017 for print version Dec 1st 2017

NUI Galway have applied to Athena SWAN but are not making application available!

A campaign member who wrote to the Athena SWAN board has been told that NUI Galway has applied for a gender equality award (closing date November 30th) but there is no requirement for NUI Galway to make its application available! They were also told they had only until the end of this week to submit an objection — to an application they have no access to!

Campaign members, including Micheline, who have written to Prof Anne Scott, the Chair of NUI Galway’s Athena SWAN committee, asking for copies of the application have received no reply.

We are now convinced this is a deliberate attempt to prevent any objections. Please help us ensure that NUI Galway does not get away with it! Here is where you can send an objection: athenaswan@ecu.ac.uk

Let them know you object to NUI Galway’s application as they have not dealt with the ongoing gender discrimination from the 2008/2009 round of promotions to Senior Lecturer. You can cite Micheline’s open letter (sent to the Athena SWAN board at the time).

If anyone can send us NUI Galway’s application, we will post it online here!


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!

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 Change.org, 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!






Micheline’s warm welcome continues in US – and she encounters a related surprise along the way


Micheline (from right, clockwise) visited feminist Emma Goldman’s gravestone in Chicago (where she was about to be filmed), met women in a local café after filming in the freezing Chicago winds, and was presented with a special sweatshirt by the Ancient Order of Hibernians in Buffalo, NY.

Two months in, Micheline’s US tour is still going strong. We were able to get some of the highlights from her in a phone call from Butte, Montana, where she and Eddie continued filming even while it was snowing hard!

Staying true to her goal to re-create her grandmother Hanna’s experiences, Micheline has traveled primarily by train. In her tour of upstate New York, she got off at several cities along the way, gave a talk at each that night, and then travelled in the morning to the next destination – going from Boston to Albany, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo, NY, before continuing on Amtrak for the 12-hour, 550-mile overnight trip to Chicago.

“It’s just what Hanna did,” Micheline explained. “Travelling on her own from place to place, being met at each station by a new group of Irish-American supporters and giving a talk there. But she did it for most of the 18 months she was in America, while her son –  my father – was looked after. Now that I am doing some of the same, I have a real sense of just what she took on.”

Micheline always received a warm welcome, but each city was a bit different:

  •  In Syracuse, NY, her talk, attended by the Irish-American community and students, was hosted by academics at Le Moyne College.
  • The Rochester talk was led by members of the local Irish-American Cultural Institute and hosted in St John Fisher College. While there, she visited the former Convention Center where Hanna spoke. Micheline said it is now a theater that happened to be featuring a play about Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, local suffrage campaigners – one for women, one for the black vote.
  • In Buffalo, members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, some of whom wore kilts in her honour, hosted her with a warm welcome at the Irish Cultural Centre, presenting her ceremoniously with an AOH sweatshirt at the end.
  • She spent five days in Chicago, speaking twice at the Literary Salon, as part of the iBAM! Festival, the city’s annual celebration of Irish Books, Arts and Music.
  • Micheline also gave a lecture to Loyola University, Chicago, about the gender equality campaign at NUI Galway.
  • In addition, she visited the gravestones of Emma Goldman and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, two feminist, anarchist and socialist friends of Hanna who were Wobblies – members of the Industrial Workers of the World union that started in Chicago in 1905.

Micheline said she enjoys talking to the people she meets on the trains – “just the randomness of it.” A man on the train to Chicago was so fascinated by what she told him and how it related to some of his own research that he researched more of Hanna’s story, sending around 30 news clippings to Micheline. “I don’t know if Hanna talked to people on the trains,” she said. “I presume she did because she was no longer travelling incognito once she was in the US and wanted to get her message across to everyone.”

There is a more personal story, too. Arriving in Chicago, Micheline then took a train to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she met two long-lost cousins – Michael Getty, who drove 500 miles from Omaha, Nebraska, to be there, and Tim Galvin, who lives outside Milwaukee.

Their great-great-grandmother was Johanna Sheehy, sister of Micheline’s great-great-grandfather Richard Sheehy (and Hanna’s grandfather).

Neither of them has been to Ireland, but they were very happy to meet Micheline. “And Michael is the spitting image of my brother Alan!” she said.

Michael and his brother even went to Chicago to hear Micheline speak. When they said goodbye, she said, “it was quite moving.”

Micheline is continuing her travels in Montana, Washington State and Canada before heading to California and then back to New York and New Jersey. She is now in British Columbia, Canada, where her Sheehy Culhane cousins – sisters Róisín and Dara – live, but where Hanna could not go, as the British would have arrested her.