NUIG appoints woman head of equality task force

A university forced to pay a lecturer €70,000 for failing to promote her because she was a woman has appointed a leading female academic to help shape its gender equality policies.

NUI Galway has asked Professor Jane Grimson of Trinity College Dublin to head up a new gender equality task force with a remit to help prevent future gender discrimination cases.

Prof Grimson, a computer engineer with a strong commitment to promoting the involvement of women in engineering and technology, is a former Dean of Engineering at TCD and helped establish that college’s Centre for Women in Science and Engineering.

President of NUI Galway Dr Jim Browne said the appointment was sanctioned by the college’s governing authority, which had stressed the need for an external, independent chairperson.

“We fully acknowledge the issues here for NUI Galway and are committed to addressing them. This appointment marks a milestone for the university in tackling gender equality.”

The move to set up a task force followed a ruling by the Equality Tribunal late last year which found in favour of a claim by now retired botany lecturer Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington that she had been unfairly overlooked for promotion for 20 years.

In addition to requiring that Dr Sheehy Skeffington be retrospectively promoted and compensated financially, the tribunal also made strong criticisms about the university’s promotions record and interview process.

Five other female academics who also applied unsuccessfully for promotions in 2009 announced they would be taking legal action against the university and Dr Sheehy Skeffington has donated her compensation payment to help fund their case.

Members of the university’s governing authority were greeted by a student demonstration as they gathered for their meeting yesterday. The students are calling for Dr Sheehy Skeffington’s five colleagues to be automatically promoted.

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