Geoghegan-Quinn to head third-level gender equality review

Review group includes Limerick professor who turned down invitation to advise NUIG

Former European commissioner and Fianna Fáil minister Máire Geoghegan-Quinn is to chair a national review of gender equality in higher education.

Ms Geoghegan-Quinn was named by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) to lead a five-strong review panel to investigate gender discrimination at third-level amid heightened concern over the lack of women in leadership roles.

The review is running concurrently with a gender equality taskforce at NUI Galway which has been at the centre of criticism since the Equality Tribunal last year found that botanist Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington had been discriminated against in a 2008-09 promotion round.

‘Corporate mudflap’

The panel includes Prof Pat O’Connor, an expert in gender equality at


University of Limerick

, who

to advise the NUIG taskforce, telling the Galway university she would not be used as a “corporate mudflap”.

The other members of the HSE group are Helen Peterson, associate professor in Sociology at Uppsala University in Sweden; Ryan Shanks, head of strategy practice at management consultants Accenture Ireland; and Paul Walton, professor of chemistry at the University of York, where his department became the first Athena Swan gold award winner for gender equality.

First female minister

Ms Geoghegan-Quinn, a qualified teacher who represented Galway West as a Fianna Fáil TD for 22 years, became the first woman to hold a cabinet position in the post-independence era when Charles Haughey appointed her Minister for the Gaeltacht in 1979.

In 2009, she was appointed Ireland’s European Commissioner, taking up the portfolio of Research, Innovation and Science.

HEA chief executive Tom Boland said: "The review will take as its starting point an analysis of the current position in higher education in Ireland in respect of gender-equality, examining this across all grades of staff, including administrative staff, and it will examine the reasons for continuing gender inequality among staff across the sector."

HEA figures last December showed 19 per cent of university professors are women.

Joe Humphreys

Joe Humphreys

Joe Humphreys is an Assistant News Editor at The Irish Times and writer of the Unthinkable philosophy column