Gender equality demonstration held at NUI Galway

Demonstration supported by Micheline Sheehy Skeffington, who won an equality case against the university

Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington taking part in the demonstration to highlight gender inequality at the Quadrangle at NUI Galway. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington taking part in the demonstration to highlight gender inequality at the Quadrangle at NUI Galway. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

 

Campaigners for gender equality at NUI Galway, who are seeking promotion of five female lecturers, have staged a demonstration outside a meeting of the university’s academic council .

The demonstration, hosted by a coalition of NUIG student societies, was supported by scientist Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington, who won an equality case against the university last November.

About 120 students, alumni and former staff appealed to academic council members to promote the five women who, like Ms Sheehy Skeffington, were deemed eligible for advancement in 2009 but were not appointed to senior lecturer posts.

Legal action

An attempt by the campaign to have a motion on the issue discussed at the academic council meeting was deemed ineligible on legal grounds.

Dr Sheehy Skeffington, who has pledged to use her €70,000 award directed by the Equality Tribunal to help the women fight their legal case, said it begged the question as to what body held responsibility for promotions in the college.

“We have been told that this is beyond the remit of both the governing body and the academic council – so who is responsible?”she said.

The protesters held a 16 foot high banner declaring that 81 per cent of the academic council’s members are male.

The council is the chief academic authority in the university and is led by the college’s president and registrar.

The campaign said this gender imbalance created “a culture of men promoting other men”.

No progress

NUIG’s governing body approved establishment of a task- force on January 30th to advise the university on its “policies, procedures and a range of initiatives related to achieving gender equality”.

The task-force is chaired by Prof Jane Grimson, former dean of engineering at Trinity College, Dublin.

However, its independence and composition have been questioned by Siptu, the Irish Federation of University Teachers and college student societies. Last week, Labour TD for Galway West Derek Nolan warned it “would not succeed if it did not have widespread support from university staff”.

Siptu’s academic stewards committee at NUIG has also expressed its support for colleagues at St Angela’s College in Sligo who have voted overwhelmingly for industrial action over the “demotion” of staff as part of integration with the university.