Education minister launches diversity statement at gender equality conference

Education minister launches diversity statement at gender equality conference
Mary Mitchell O’Connor opens Major European Conference on Gender Equality in Higher Education at Trinity College Dublin. Picture: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

A Gender and Diversity Statement for higher education has been launched after a study found a distinct lack of female representation in senior roles.

The policy, the first of its kind in Ireland, aims to increase the number of women in highly paid positions throughout the sector and give them better access to career opportunities.

Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor launched the statement, by the Technological Higher Education Association (Thea), as part of her opening address to the European Conference on Gender Equality in Higher Education at Dublin’s Trinity College on Monday.

The report will inform policy across 14 Institutes of Technology in Ireland and is the first policy statement of its kind to be adopted by higher education institutions.

The central mission statement commits to ensuring equal opportunities for all people, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, to access higher education and advance their careers.

The statement’s other objectives include eliminating disparities in education, addressing imbalances among staff, establishing structures which allow equal opportunities to advance careers, and supporting staff who have caring responsibilities.

Statutory decision-making committees, such as the Governing Body and Academic Council, will now have no less than 40% membership of either gender.

Speaking at the launch, Ms Mitchell O’Conner said an increase in women in leadership roles would be beneficial to staff and students.

“The recent study by the HEA into the gender profiles of higher education institutions quantified the lack of gender balance across our higher education institutions, in particular at very senior levels.

“This statement is designed to encourage diversity and female representation throughout the sector.

“It represents an aspiration within the technological sector to increase the number of females in leadership roles and to enhance the diversity of both the student and staff community.”

Enterprise director at Vodafone Ireland and chairwoman of Thea Council of Presidents, Regina Moran, said there was still work to be done in tackling diversity in the sector.

“This is a significant milestone in the evolution of our technological higher education.

“Although we have present and former females in presidential roles and in leading positions across the sector, we need to do much more in order to ensure diverse proportional representation at senior level.

“We are committing to target the very grassroots of career-planning – at the access point to education and progression through levels of attainment – so that succession planning for senior roles will support gender balanced diversity.”

- Press Association


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