Women still under-represented in senior university positions

news1Data released last week by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) indicate that, despite holding a majority of undergraduate places at Trinity, women are still significantly under-represented in senior academic posts in the university. 67% of senior posts in Trinity are held by men, while women make up only 14% of professors.

However, Trinity has fared better for gender representation than most other third-level institutions, being the only university to have more than 30% of senior academic posts held by women, compared with 21% at NUI Galway, 27% at UCC and DCU, 28% at Maynooth University and 29% at UCD. Only St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra, a DCU college, bucks the trend among with a 50:50 split between men and women in senior posts. While 86% of professorial roles in Trinity are held by men, 49% of lecturers, 38% of senior lecturers, and 45% of associate professors at the university.

The position of professor has traditionally been one held by some of the most senior members of a department by age, which may account for the contrast between the figures. Statistics for the University of Limerick, established in 1972, which has the highest percentage of female professors, indicate that structural barriers to career advancement that may be prevalent in older universities could be an explanation, though this does not wholly account for the overall poor performance in this survey of Maynooth University, which, although a successor to St Patrick’s College, established in 1795, became a iniversity only in 1997.

Of all higher education institutions, only Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology (IADT) has a majority of women (55%) in senior roles. Overall, institutes of technology had an average of 29% of senior roles filled by women.  Of the non-university third-level colleges, St. Angela’s College, Sligo, and the National College of Art and Design were the best performers, with women making up  86% of lecturers and 67% of senior lecturers at St Angela’s, and 61% of lecturers and 47% of senior lecturers at NCAD.

Responding to a question from Trinity News about what Trinity does to encourage participation of women in the workplace,college press officer, Caoimhe ní Lochlainn, stated that it “acknowledges the need to improve gender balance in representation,” citing measures in place such as “an annual Equality Monitoring Report, prepared by the Monitoring Advisory Group and presented to Board, that examines the diversity of the College community.” This report focuses on “gender representation across the different levels of academic staff” and will allow Trinity “to identify particular areas of College that experience a pronounced gender imbalance and identify appropriate actions to be taken,” she said.

The Strategic Plan 2014-19 launched last month by An Taoiseach Enda Kenny commits the College to “[advance] a structural change process to incorporate gender-balanced representation at all stages and levels, thereby enhancing the quality of Trinity’s institutional decision-making”. It also commits College to introducing the Athena SWAN Charter, which promotes good employment practices for female academics in STEMM, to Ireland.

Ní Lochlainn told Trinity News that College’s desire to introduce this charter to Ireland “represents Trinity’s intention to pioneer a proven means of promoting and retaining women in the STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine) fields in Ireland, thus improving our own standards while also raising the bar for other Irish institutions.”

Asked about what facilities exist for academic staff who are parents, Ní Lochlainn drew attention to the INTEGER (Institutional Transformation for Effecting Gender Equality in Research) Project, whose Baseline Data Report in 2013 indicated that the College should “introduce one-term sabbatical leave for academics returning from long-term leave”, a measure that was adopted by the Faculty Executive of the School of Engineering, Mathematics and  Science on 28 October 2014 for a two-year pilot. The move allows those returning from a variety of leave programmes to focus entirely on research for a period of one academic term, relieving them of teaching or administrative duties.

Fionn McGorry

Fionn McGorry is the Deputy News Editor. He is a History and Political Science student, and hails from a very long way away indeed.