Gender bias at UCC a concern for staff

Just over half feel promotion process not transparent and fair, internal report finds

UCC’s gender-equality action plan will  benefit staff and students across all disciplines. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

UCC’s gender-equality action plan will benefit staff and students across all disciplines. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

 

There are significant levels of dissatisfaction among staff over gender issues and promotion processes at one of the country’s biggest universities, according to an internal survey.

Unpublished research by management at University College Cork (UCC) shows that more than one-third (36 per cent) of the 375 respondents – which comprised 265 females and 110 males – believed the culture and atmosphere at the college was not female-friendly and inclusive.

Just over half felt the promotion process in UCC was not transparent and fair, and almost one in four felt academic promotions were not free of gender bias.

Almost a quarter of respondents felt they were not treated fairly based on merit, without regard to characteristics such as gender, civil or family status or sexual orientation.

The findings, seen by The Irish Times, have helped inform a three-year gender-equality action plan as part of the university’s bid to obtain an international award which recognises a commitment to advancing the careers of woman in science and related subjects.

Award

Michael MurphyAthena Swan

In 2015, only two of the seven Irish universities – Trinity College Dublin and University of Limerick – were granted the award, which is aimed at encouraging and recognising commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine.

UCC’s plan involves a review of promotion and progression procedures, targeted research support for female academic staff returning from maternity leave and improved gender balance on strategic decision-making bodies.

The survey also found that, regarding promotion, half of respondents felt promotion criteria at UCC were not transparent and fair.

Family leave

Meanwhile, 55 per cent said they would not feel comfortable reporting an issue if they felt they were treated unfairly, while 43 per cent said they would not feel comfortable reporting an incident where they witnessed another staff member being treated unfairly.

According to a UCC spokeswoman, the Athena Swan process in Ireland is currently limited to the science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine sectors.

However, she said many of the initiatives approved in UCC’s gender-equality action plan would benefit staff and students across all disciplines.

“UCC participates in the Aurora Women’s Leadership programme for Higher Education and in 2015 supported 20 female staff – the maximum permissible in completing this flagship programme,” the spokeswoman said.

She pointed out that UCC was the first Irish university to establish an LGBT staff network in 2008, and the university had recently joined a “diversity champions workplace programme”, which supports employers in ensuring supportive workplaces for LGBT staff.