The government is expected to announce details of funding for ‘women-only’ professorships today, in an aim to end gender inequality in higher education institutions.
Over the next three years, the government will fund up to thirty professorship positions for women, with an aim to bridge the inequality gap in senior positions in Irish third level institutions. The initiative is expected to cost €6 million.
It follows recommendations from a gender equality taskforce, which said that dramatic steps are needed to ensure that more women work in key leadership positions in education.
The move will likely be a controversial one for the government, as it goes against the institutions’ long-standing recruitment policies, which hire candidates based on ‘gender equality’.
While some might argue that gender quotas are an unfair method of bridging the gender gap, the statistics regarding women in leadership positions in the education system in Ireland are stark.
While women make up half of all university lecturers in Ireland, they account for just under a quarter of all professors.
Women’s chances of becoming a professor vary from institution to institution – as of 2017, the University of Limerick has the highest proportion at 31% while NUI Galway has the lowest at just 12%. The average proportion of women at professorship level in Irish universities is 24%.
There has never been a female president of an Irish university in the history of the state. Two women occupy the role of president in Institutes of Technology – Dr Annie Doona of the Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology and Dr Patricia Mulcahy of the Insitute of Technology Carlow.
The lack of women in leadership positions contributes to a worrying gender pay gap in third level education too. Men account for the vast majority of the best-paid positions – 70 per cent of those earning in excess of €106,000 are men at university level, while it rises to 83 per cent in institutes of technology.