Dublin: Universities to be penalised for gender inequality

5 Jul 2016 - 11:30

The national review of gender equality in higher education, which was done by the Expert Group and commissioned by the Higher Education Authority (HEA), outlined the need for a greater gender balance of staff.

It recommended that mandatory quotas should be introduced for academic promotion, with the final pool of candidates for positions - as far as possible - comprising of an equal split of men and women; that a vice-president for equality be appointed at each institution; and that any applicant for president must have “demonstrable experience of leadership in advancing gender equality”.


A database of staff across higher education institutions will be created to monitor gender equality targets, while a national committee to advance gender equality in higher education will be established by the HEA.

Funding will correlate with each institution’s performance and will be withheld if targets are not met.

The chair of The Expert Group, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, said: “In undertaking this review, we quickly realised that the ‘fix the women’ approach - aimed at getting women to change to fit the existing culture - will not work.

“The fact that women are not found in the same proportion as men in the most senior positions in higher education institutions is not because women are not talented or driven enough to fill these roles.

“It is because numerous factors within the institutions - conscious and unconscious, cultural and structural - mean women face a number of barriers to progression, which are not experienced to the same degree by men. Our review shows that systematic barriers in the organisation and culture within institutions means that talent alone is not always enough to guarantee success.”  

The HEA will establish a comprehensive database of staff in higher education institutions to provide an evidence base for monitoring progress in addressing gender inequality.  

A national committee to support gender equality in higher education will be established by the HEA, in partnership with the Irish University Association and Institutes of Technology Ireland.  

The CEO of the HEA, Tom Boland, added: “While the institutions have, to varying degrees, sought to address gender inequality in the past, the intractable under-representation of women among staff at senior levels clearly signals the need for new, even radical, approaches to tackling this issue.

“Over the coming months, we will continue to liaise with the Department of Education and Skills, the higher education institutions, research funding agencies and other key stakeholders to develop a detailed implementation plan. The plan will include a robust system of follow-up evaluation and performance monitoring linked to funding through the HEA's strategic dialogue process.”