Royal Irish Academy commissions diversity review to boost female participation

The review also aims to increase ethnic diversity in the RIA in line with Irish society at large

The Royal Irish Academy has commissioned a diversity review in a bid to boost female participation in the prestigious academic body which was established in 1785 to promote science and the humanities.

The review, led by former University of Edinburgh vice-principal Lesley Yellowlees, also aims to increase ethnic diversity in the RIA in line with Irish society at large. A specialist in solar energy research who also was the first female president of the Royal Society of Chemistry, Prof Yellowlees has championed diversity in science.

The RIA brings together senior academics and figures from government and industry to address issues of mutual interest. An all-island forum of experts, it aims to recognise world-class researchers and champion Irish academic research.

"Diversity is an issue of central importance to the academy, and I am committed to strengthening the diversity of its membership," said Dr Mary Canning, RIA president.

Only 121 women are in the 637-member academy, almost one-fifth of the total. They include former president Mary Robinson, former chief justice Susan Denham, former editor of The Irish Times Geraldine Kennedy, economist Frances Ruane and historian Mary Daly.

Despite the gender imbalance in the RIA’s membership there is parity between men and women in its 24-member council, which is responsible for governance and regulation.

RIA vice-president Anita Maguire said Prof Yellowlees would lead an international four-person panel charged with reviewing the procedures and criteria for identifying and electing new academy members.

The panel has been asked to identify barriers to increasing diversity and make recommendations to foster greater diversity in future elections of new members.

The academy will publish the review in December.

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley is Current Affairs Editor of The Irish Times