Austerity, gender balance and women-only professorships
Sir, – It is true that the third-level sector has a gender problem at senior level.
But it is also true that the sector has a wider promotions problem that affects both women and men. For historical reasons, but especially due to austerity, it is and has been much more difficult for an academic in an Irish university to be promoted than would be the case in a comparable institution in the rest of the English-speaking world. Further, it is arguable that austerity, and the ensuing restrictions on promotion, have had a knock-on effect on gender balance at senior level, because many of the women who might now be in senior positions were hired on the eve of austerity and thus have faced significant delays to their career progression.
Thus I would strongly recommend, in addition to any other measures taken, that the government consider the following remedy: that the sector introduce a special promotions initiative for academic post-holders in Ireland who are already qualified, by international standards, for positions of higher rank (or for senior management positions). These promotions would be open to all departments and institutions, so as not to penalise institutions with good records of gender equality (or reward departments with poor records in this regard).
They would also be open to all candidates regardless of gender, so as not to exclude highly qualified male candidates who have also suffered delays to promotion.
However, two-thirds of the promotions would be reserved for women, to ensure that the goal of better gender balance is achieved. – Yours, etc,