The Sunday Independent reports this morning that the Minister for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O'Connor is attempting to tackle gender bias head on in universities and third level colleges with the start of a new initiative to make some professorships open to women only.
The move is being done, according to the minister, in conjunction with the Department of Education, to address the persistent gender inequality at senior levels in universities and third level colleges and also to counter “paltry" proportion of women in senior third level positions.
The minister said that some may view the the female-only professorships as “jobs for the girls,” but explained that she has no plans to apologise for what she feels is her responsibility to help “to make the third-level sector an equal one.”
Mary Mitchell O'Connor. Photo via Twitter
She added that she does expect there to be some backlash to the move, but hopes that it will only be minor.
She reportedly plans to formally launch her initiative tomorrow, when she publishes an action plan by the Department of Education’s gender equality task force.
Her plan will, she says, set out a number of “radical changes” to ensure a more equal playing field for women.
“As Minister for Higher Education, in conjunction with the Department of Education, I am creating female-only professorial posts within our universities and Institutes of Technologies. This is just one of a myriad of initiatives that will address and improve on the paltry proportion of women in senior third-level positions,” she writes in the Sunday Independent today.
Interestingly, a poll over on TheJournal.ie this morning indicates that only just over 23% think the move is a good idea, while over 70% said they don't agree with it.
A report last year detailing CSO figures said that even without tackling the inequality of jobs in various fields, the gender pay gap as it stands is widening in Ireland. Figures revealed the gap has increased by 2%, showing women’s educational strides (it's women that continue to dominate the sectors of education, health and welfare) are not translating to pay.