A question of gender at third level


Sir, – Prof Diarmaid Ferriter (Education, February 26th) describes his week. When I asked some colleagues what struck them about the article, they replied “he works so hard”, “he has a really interesting job” and “he does his work very diligently”. All true.

What struck me about the article, was the complete absence of domestic jobs and minimal childcare involvement throughout his week (he tells us he has three young children). Perhaps Prof Ferriter considers these not relevant to the article or too mundane to include (though we do hear about his morning run, his quiet pint in his local of a Sunday afternoon and his sneaky, solitary trip to a cinema matinee).

I wondered had the article been written by Prof Dorothy or Deirdre Ferriter, would my colleagues have responded differently. I suspect so.

Society still judges men and women differently, in relation to what constitutes an acceptable balance between paid employment, domestic work, childcare and leisure time. These societal norms are responsible to some degree for the severe under-representation of women among senior university academic staff.

An EU study conducted in 2008 showed that Irish men are at least five times more likely than Irish women to obtain a full university professorship. Wouldn’t it be interesting to hear about the week of a senior female academic with three young children? However, I couldn’t think of one to ask. – Yours, etc,


(NUI, Galway),

Cloch Ard,