Women-only professorships


Sir, – The average male “chance” of a professorship (looking at the ratio of men at full professoriate level to those below that) is 1:5. The average female “chance” is 1:15. Men’s “chance” of a professorship has varied little since 2013 and is similar across all universities. Women’s chance has improved marginally (from 1:16). However, it varies a great deal between universities (from 1:9 to 1:31).

Thus, even those universities that are “good” for women are much worse than for men.

The fact that such large variation occurs between universities in the case of women, suggests that “obvious” explanations such as women’s biology, caring responsibilities or choice are far less important than organisational factors. There is a good deal of international evidence about the elements in what you rightly indicate is a multifactorial explanation.

Is not some attempt to “level the playing pitch” appropriate?

The Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor’s “package” includes a number of elements including the linking of the gender profile of senior posts to core funding; the implementation of the cascade model (where the proportion of those promoted reflects the pool) at senior lecturer level; demonstration of leadership in progressing gender equality as a key criterion for appointment to line-management positions; and these 15 posts per annum for a three-year period.

I welcome the Minister’s plan. – Yours, etc,


Professor Emeritus,

Sociology and

Social Policy,

University of Limerick.

A chara, – Equality of opportunity during selection is the issue that needs to be guaranteed.

Picking anyone for a job other than on merit will lead to poorer outcomes for others down the line. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 6W.

Sir, – Some ideas and phrases seem so bizarre that it appears incomprehensible they ever gain currency.

The familiar phrase “fighting fire with fire” is an example, as is the homeopathic idea of “like cures like”.

I would add “eliminating discrimination through discrimination” to this baffling list. – Yours, etc,



Co Cork.

Sir, – So now apparently the way to increase the number of women in university professorial posts is to discriminate all men from applying for them. Brilliant!

In essence this amounts to nothing but gender fascism, coupled with a loss of equality of opportunity.

What next? The creation of posts for the bald-headed, the face-freckled, or perhaps bicycle-users only? – Yours, etc,



Dublin 16.

Sir, – Thank you so much for your provocative headline “Are men just better at science than women?” (Opinion & Analysis, November 14th). You have made my job as a woman in a male-dominated industry even harder.

Too many people will not read beyond the headline and simply assume the article reinforces the ridiculous notion that women’s brains are inferior to men’s. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 3.

Sir, – As the daughter of a male academic who supported eight dependents on his single income, I can’t help but wonder, might his career progression have been stunted by this? – Yours, etc,



Dublin 20.

Sir, – Deploying gender discrimination to tackle gender discrimination. You couldn’t make it up! – Yours, etc,



Dublin 6W.

Sir, – In the current discussion of gender equity in higher education, little reference has been made to the consistent underachievement of males in the educational system. For example, fewer males take higher level subjects at Leaving Certificate and in many subjects they underachieve compared to females. The points system used for higher education admission has differing male and female distributions.

Little reference has also been made to the differing choices of males and females, choices of subjects in school and discipline choices in higher education. For example, females dominate entry to education and health-related higher education courses while male dominate entry to ICT and technology – areas of future skill importance.

The promotion of gender equity and of academic achievement requires the addressing of both male and female issues. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 5.

Sir, – In “Are plans to close gender gap in university posts fair?” (Analysis, November 12th), you state that the University of Limerick has the second lowest proportion of female professors in the Irish university sector. In fact, at 31 per cent, the University of Limerick has a higher percentage of female professors than any other Irish university, and three of our five deans are female as are two of our three vice-presidents.

In 2015, the University of Limerick and Trinity College Dublin were the first Irish universities to win the Athena Swan award recognising their efforts to increase academic gender equality.

Along with other Irish universities, the University of Limerick has room for improvement in gender equality, but it is helpful to acknowledge the progress that has been made in Limerick. – Yours, etc,


Dean of Graduate

and Professional Studies,

University of Limerick.