Women under-represented at senior level in higher education

Only 19 per cent of professors are women despite recent gender equality initiatives

Women are significantly under-represented in senior academic roles in third-level institutions in Ireland, new figures show.

A breakdown of Higher Education Authority data for 2014 indicates there was a full gender balance at lecturer level, with 51 per cent of posts occupied by women.

But just 35 per cent of senior lecturers were women, falling to 26 per cent among assistant professors and 19 per cent of professors.

Joan Donegan, deputy general secretary of the Irish Federation of University Teachers, said intensified efforts to address gender discrimination were required.


NUI Galway

The issue of gender discrimination made headlines last year when Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington - granddaugher of suffragette Hanna Sheehy Skeffington - won a landmark Equality Tribunal case against her former employer, NUI Galway.

The latest breakdown of figures shows that just over half - 53 per cent - of lecturers at NUI Galway were female.

This fell to 30 per cent among senior lecturers, 10 per cent among assistant professors and 14 per cent among professors.

The federation said this was the poorest performance of any university across all three senior grades.

NUI Galway has said it takes the issue of gender equality very seriously and has set up a task force to review its practices. It said its figures reflected a poor record right across the wider higher education sector.

‘Institutional’ issue

Ms Donegan said most universities now accepted gender equality was an “institutional” rather than a “women’s” issue, and were implementing a range of measures.

She welcomed the recent appointment of Máire Geoghegan-Quinn by the Higher Education Authority to chair a national review of gender equality in higher education.

A report due to be completed in June 2016 will examine the reasons for continuing gender inequality across all grades of staff, including administrative staff.

“Simply launching initiatives, however, will not be sufficient and is not evidence that all the issues have been resolved,” Ms Donegan said.

“The existence of so many initiatives proves there is a huge and complex problem requiring multiple measures and initiatives on an ongoing basis.”

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent