University of Limerick and Trinity College Dublin have become the first Irish colleges to receive recognition from an international organisation for their efforts to increase academic gender equality.
They have received bronze Athena SWAN Awards, part of a UK programme that works to further and support equality for staff and students in higher education institutions. The Athena SWAN charter is currently limited to science and related fields, but is being expanded to other disciplines in the UK and perhaps later in Ireland.
It was extended to Ireland in the last year, with UL and Trinity among six colleges here that applied for awards.
The granting of bronze awards under the scheme recognises that they have a solid foundation for eliminating gender bias and developing an inclusive culture that values all staff.
Achieving this status follows assessment of numbers and policies in relation to gender equality, and the development of plans to build on the findings.
Irish third-level colleges signed up to the Athena SWAN charter earlier this year, and these are the first outcome of applications that had to be submitted by April. The four colleges whose applications were not successful have not been named, but the Equality Challenge Unit which operates the scheme will accept submissions again up to the end of September.
“Unfortunately, they did not meet our criteria on this occasion but we thank them for their involvement and recognise their commitment to gender equality through their participation in the process,” a spokesman said.
The development follows the recent announcement of former European commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn as chair of a review for the Higher Education Authority (HEA) of gender equality among staff in publicly funded colleges.
NUI Galway has been subject of criticisms of its recruitment and promotion policies, but it is not the only institution with poor female representation among senior academic staff. Only 14% of professors there and at Trinity are women, but the figure is highest in UL at 31%, according to the most recently-published HEA figures.
Trinity’s schools of chemistry, physics, and natural sciences also attained department-level bronze Athena SWAN awards, in recognition of having identified challenges and planning future activities.
“We strive to create an inclusive college community in which women and men participate at all levels and where all are recognised fully for their contribution to the university,” said Trinity provost Patrick Prendergast.
d fully for their contribution to the university,” said Trinity provost Patrick Prendergast.
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