Women under-represented in senior university posts HEA finds

Less than a third of senior academic posts in Ireland’s universities and ITs held by women

Women are underrepresented in senior academic posts in Ireland’s universities, institutes of technology and colleges, statistics released by the Higher Education Authority show. Photograph: Getty Images.

Women are underrepresented in senior academic posts in Ireland’s universities, institutes of technology and colleges, statistics released by the Higher Education Authority show. Photograph: Getty Images.

 

Women are under-represented in senior academic posts in Ireland’s universities, institutes of technology and colleges, statistics released by the Higher Education Authority show.

Less than a third of senior academic positions in the country’s seven universities and 14 institutes of technologies are held by women.

In universities parity exists at lecturer level where there is a 50:50 gender split. However, the gender divide widens among the higher staff grades. Women account for just 35 per cent of senior lecturers, 26 per cent of associate professors and 19 per cent of professors.

The gender divide is most pronounced in NUI Galway where almost four in every five (79 per cent) senior academic staff members are male and where women account for just 13 per cent of associate professors and 14 per cent of professors.

It comes just weeks after the Equality Tribunal ordered NUI Galway to promote lecturer Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington after finding she was discriminated against on gender grounds when she was overlooked for a senior lectureship. The tribunal ordered that the university pay Dr Sheehy Skeffington- granddaughter of the suffragette Hanna Sheehy Skeffington - €70,000 and review its appointments system.

Among Ireland’s institutes of technology, 29 per cent of those who hold senior academic posts are women.

The gender divide is most pronounced in Athlone Institute of Technology where just 13 per cent of senior academic staff are women.

Kathleen Lynch, professor of equality studies in the School of Social Justice in University College Dublin, said she was “not at all surprised” by the figures.

“Higher education is male dominated; this has been so for a very long time,” she said. “Women are often frozen out...I think a lot of women are aware that they are not welcome in senior posts,” she said, but added that it was not a case of direct discrimination.

“That’s too simplistic. There are cultural issues at play at senior level. It is expected that men will be leaders but it is not expected that women will be leaders and these messages are communicated in very subtle ways.

“It’s not just a question of women not being promoted; often women don’t even apply. They are told ‘it’s an intensely competitive environment’. That is macho language that discourages women. If you’re told you have to work 24/7 what message does that send to women, and indeed men, that have young families or those caring for older relatives?”

She said a broader study of women’s positions at third level was required which should not be limited to academic staff: “Who holds the top jobs in administration service, libraries and other sectors and finance in particular?”

“We need to look at who holds the money and who controls appointments...these positions are disproportionately held by men”.

The Higher Education Authority said academic appointments were a matter for the individual institutions but said it supported a number of initiatives that encourage greater equality in the system.