Irish Examiner view: Odds tipping to equality in gender race

The election of Professor Linda Doyle to be the first female provost to lead Trinity College Dublin means the glass ceiling in Irish universities has been well and truly shattered
Irish Examiner view: Odds tipping to equality in gender race

Professor Linda Doyle is to become Provost of Trinity College Dublin, the first woman to ever hold this role in the University’s 429-year history. Picture: Paul Sharp/SHARPPIX

Had the beloved singing teacher Veronica Dunne — Ronnie — lived for even another week she would have seen that our world has changed utterly and that no other woman, as she had to, might have to make their talent and ambitions fit around domestic expectations. 

Dunne, who died last week aged 93, had to sacrifice a soaring opera career when she became a mother. The world of international performance was denied her but her work and legacy reverberate. She set standards in music teaching that will outlive her.

How she would have celebrated the news that, after 429 years, Trinity College Dublin selected Professor Linda Doyle as the first female provost to lead the university.

Prof Doyle will be the 45th Provost and her election by her peers means that the glass ceiling in Irish universities has been well and truly shattered.

She joins Prof Kerstin Mey at the University of Limerick, Prof Eeva Leinonen at Maynooth, and Prof Maggie Cusack at the Munster Technological University as one of a growing number of women leading Irish universities.

Prof Doyle's election is more than a victory for gender equality, it is confirmation that the greatest motivator of all — opportunity — is a real force in this society. 

It is all too easy to forget that, until 1970, an observant Catholic needed their bishop's permission to even try to enroll in Trinity. 

It is all too easy to forget too that not so very long ago opportunity was weighed out in ways that perpetuated privilege often at the expense of talent.

That ceiling has, as this achievement confirms, been consigned to history.

History of another kind made in a very different but every bit as a competitive arena on Saturday when Rachael Blackmore rewrote the long history of horse racing — longer even than Trinity's — when she became the first woman to ride an English Grand National winner.

Rachael Blackmore became the first woman to ride an English Grand National winner on Saturday. Picture: HEALY RACING
Rachael Blackmore became the first woman to ride an English Grand National winner on Saturday. Picture: HEALY RACING

Following so quickly after her coronation as Queen of Cheltenham her milestone victory, riding the Henry De Bromhead-trained Minella Times, is not entirely surprising but it is nonetheless welcome proof that potential can be realised irrespective of gender in even this high-testosterone environment. 

There have been many successful women trainers but this is the first blue riband win for a woman jockey in such a demanding setting.

It is, however, as we report today, far too early to pronounce gender equality an achievement rather than an ongoing challenge. 

One of the consequences of the democratisation of media is that local radio stations on 53.1% have a wider reach than national stations which attract 46.9% of radio listeners. 

Local and national stations, who between them attract 3.19m listeners every week, are different in another way too.

National stations may not have achieved complete gender balance but they seem much further along the road than local radio stations. 

Mid-morning talk shows are a daily high-water mark for radio but in local stations 89% of presenters of those programmes are male. 

Of the 19 local or regional stations broadcasting a mid-morning talk show, 17 are anchored by men.

It may be time for Provost Doyle to establish the Rachael Blackmore chair in media equality studies.

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