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?
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.