Plan Announced To Create Female-Specific Professor Positions To Help Fix Third-Level Gender Divide

Mary Mitchell O’Connor, Minister of State with special responsibility for Higher Education announced a new initiative today to help redress the gender imbalance in professorial positions in Irish third-level institutions.

The initiative, titled the Senior Academic Leadership Initiative for the Higher Education sector – a name which admittedly does not roll off the tongue – is set to create a number of female-specific senior academic positions across the third-level sector.

Women remain significantly underrepresented in senior academic positions. Despite some 51% of lecturers being female in universities, only 24% of professors were female while across Irish ITs some 45% of lecturers were female but only 36% of senior lecturers were female.

The plan was announced as part of launch of the Action Plan for Gender Equality in Higher Education Institutions 2018-2020. This Action Plan showed that under current trends, and without attempts like the above to redress this imbalance, it would be another 20 years until the goal of having 40% of professorial positions being held by women. The initiative hopes to achieve this target by 2024.

While the particulars of how this policy will be implemented are yet to be finalised it is a welcome step to help redress the systemic under-representation of women across Irish third-level education.

At the launch this morning Minister Mitchell O’Connor said:

In addition, to supporting the acceleration of the achievement of gender equality objectives under the Action Plan, this initiative will bring female excellence to the fore. I know it will underpin the transformation and cultural change essential in ensuring that Ireland’s higher education sector fully realises the benefits of gender diversity.

It is hoped that the programme will be launched by the end of the year with the positions to be created for the 2019/20 academic year. There is set to be additional funding provided to the department of education to fund this initiative.