More than quotas needed for equality

THE idea of gender quotas seems almost an anachronism, something clumsily outdated and unnecessary in our shiny, all-in-it-together world. 

However, it appears that those quotas, or at least measures to ensure gender equality, are still necessary to help women achieve parity in academia.

This disparity is at the root of an ultimatum that only colleges that do more to support gender equality can expect a slice of an annual €230m public research fund. This initiative to force 20 publicly funded institutions to do more to help women comes into play in three years. From the end of 2019, only institutions reaching certain standards will be considered for funding from the Irish Research Council, Science Foundation Ireland, and the Health Research Board. Research funding is the lifeblood of our under-funded institutions, so this measure will achieve its designers’ objectives.

That this week the Royal Irish Academy, more than 230 years after its establishment, felt it necessary to honour eight women involved in the sciences to encourage more women to study in that area confirms that the objective of equality in all walks of life remains elusive.

However, it seems that something more imaginative than quotas may be needed. After all, political parties are obliged to ensure a certain number of election candidates are women but, in the current Dáil, only 35 out of 158 elected deputies are women. Quotas are a help, but only a part of the answer.


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