College settles gender case with female lecturer

National University of Ireland Galway has reached a settlement with one of five female academics who have been pursuing gender discrimination cases over a promotions process in 2009.

National University of Ireland Galway

The development comes as mediation failed to resolve the college’s long-running dispute with four other women whose cases have been going through the courts.

NUIG and the Irish Federation of University Teachers confirmed an agreement in the case of the individual lecturer who pursued her dispute with the college through industrial relations rather than the legal system.

“An amicable agreement has been reached between a lecturer and NUI Galway in relation to Labour Court proceedings in respect of the University 2008/2009 senior lecturer promotions round,” a university spokesperson said.

The agreement is confidential and no comment was made, but NUIG said both parties look forward to continuing their work together.

The issue of gender equality will be one of the biggest challenges for incoming president Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh when he succeeds Jim Browne as NUIG president, in January.

The case of the four other women was adjourned in the High Court last June to allow time for a mediation process to continue. But that process has concluded and the NUIG spokesperson said the matters have returned to the courts for further adjudication.

Adrienne Gorman, Roisín Healy, Margaret Hodgins, and Sylvie Lannegrand say they were treated less favourably by the college on grounds of gender and/or family status when they were unsuccessful in their applications for promotion to senior lecturer grade in 2008 and 2009. They are seeking promotion to senior lecturer level from July 1, 2009, with associated pay adjustments, and are also claiming damages.

The university has denied the claims and argues that cases of employment discrimination should be determined by the Workplace Relations Commission rather than the High Court.

In a report, just published, NUIG’s vice-president for equality and diversity Anne Scott said the low number of women in senior positions is one of the important issues being addressed by groups focused on gender equality. Latest national data showed it was the worst-performing university, with just eight out of 64 professors being women despite half its lecturers being female.

“We recognise that there is significant work to do on this matter and a number of initiatives are being put in place to continue to support the promotion of women in the university,” her report states.

The college was unsuccessful in its application earlier this year for the minimum accreditation under an international gender equality programme, but it plans to submit a new application shortly for the Athena SWAN Bronze award. 

Maynooth University is developing a submission to apply for the same award in November, and says it is committed to securing the accreditation as a central element in its strategy to address gender inequality. Just under one-third of Maynooth University professors are female, as are 35% of senior lecturers, and 40% of the university executive team.

Everyone in management positions at NUI Galway is among 347 people to have received unconscious bias training. An external advisory group on gender equality set up at the end of 2016 identified a number of areas requiring urgent attention, including the maintenance of support at the highest level, particularly as a new president takes over.

This story was re-edited on September 22 to correct an initial inaccuracy on the status of Maynooth University's accreditation application.

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