Mandatory gender quotas will ‘not resolve’ issues at NUIG – Siptu

NUIG has the lowest representation of women at senior levels in Irish universities

A proposal to introduce mandatory gender quotas at NUI Galway (NUIG) will not resolve an "underlying problem" of institutional discrimination at the university, Siptu has said.

Pay equity must be for everyone, and not just for women seeking senior academic positions, the trade union’s equality committee at the university said.

Mandatory gender quotas have been recommended for NUIG in a task force report which is due to be presented to the college’s governing body on Tuesday.

The Higher Education Authority (HEA) figures have shown that NUIG has the lowest representation of women at senior levels of all seven universities in Ireland.

A task force led by Prof Jane Grimson, former vice-provost of Trinity College Dublin, was set up by the university early last year, after a landmark Equality Tribunal case was won by botanist Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington.

The task force report says the university needs to take immediate action to address the gender inequality that has developed due to the “deeply embedded male-oriented culture within it”.

Siptu refused to co-operate with the task force, stating that its terms of reference were too narrow, and that it was “not independent” as it was appointed by the university’s management team.

Because of this, the union says staff did not trust the task force, and says this is reflected in the small number of submissions made - 38 in total from a total staff of 2,310.

The figure was confirmed in a Freedom of Information request submitted by the union to NUIG.

The Siptu committee acknowledges there are “positive elements” in the task force report, but says it ignores male and female academics and researchers, as well as other staff employed on lower pay and in often “precarious circumstances”.

The union committee says it has repeatedly asked for an independent equality review to deal with what it describes as “institutional discrimination across all grades of staff, and students”.

It says such a review would “not be limited to gender but would address other kinds of discrimination and unfair treatment”.

It notes that the task force report “does not hold anyone accountable”, and believes a “sea-change” in management at NUIG is required, along with “independent, external oversight”.

It notes that most of the work to implement the task force recommendations appears to fall to a new vice-president for equality and diversity, rather than other members of the university management team.

NUIG has appointed Prof Anne Scott as its new vice-president for equality and diversity - a first for any Irish university, it noted.

This followed a recommendation in the first report issued by Prof Grimson’s task force in June 2015.

Prof Scott is currently executive dean of the education, health and community faculty in Liverpool John Moores University, and was previously head of the school of nursing and human sciences at Dublin City University.