New women-only professorships to combat inequality

The minister for state for higher education has rejected the notion that the creation of new professorships exclusively for women at 12 third-level institutes discriminates against men.

New women-only professorships to combat inequality

By Jess Casey and Lorna Siggins

The minister for state for higher education has rejected the notion that the creation of new professorships exclusively for women at 12 third-level institutes discriminates against men.

In a bid to address gender imbalance at senior level across the sector, 20 new professorships specifically for women are set to be in place by September.

The extra posts, mainly in Stem (science, tecnhology, engineering, and maths) subjects, should help to redress any bias against women ininterviews for senior roles, Fine Gael’s Mary Mitchell O’Connor said.

“Women are being discriminated against,” she said. “There’s inequality, and women are not being promoted as academics to the highest level.”

The 20 new posts will be in addition to approximately 50 professorial appointments made every year, she added.

“For every 100 professors in our universities, 76 are men,” she told RTÉ.

“So they’re getting a great chance, you know. They definitely are reaching those [senior] levels, but the women aren’t.”

A gender equality expert has said radical tackling of management culture in Irish universities is required to secure equal access. University of Limerick (UL) emeritus professor of sociology Pat O’Connor welcomed the professorships as a “necessary start”, but says fundamental action is needed for a “culture change”.

Prof O’Connor — author of a number of studies on the issue and a Higher Education Authority (HEA) expert group representative on the Government’s taskforce — said she would “prefer to see a clean-up of the management structure” at third level.

She said her research suggests there is a “cosy consensus” across universities in relation to access by women to senior posts. Women have, on average, a three times lesser chance than men of accessing a professorship, she found.

Her research, published last month in Irish Educational Studies, also shows that men’s chance of a professorship, at 1:5, has varied little since 2013, while women’s chance has improved only marginally, from 1:16 to 1:15. This figure variesl between universities, ranging from 1:9 to 1:31.

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