Trinity’s Dean of Research, Professor Linda Doyle, has stated that she isn’t confident that the creation of “women-only” positions within universities is the answer to gender imbalances in higher education institutions.
Doyle explained that she believes action needs to be taken to encourage a larger number of women in senior positions, but says that creating posts specifically for women may not be the best strategy, based on limited information available regarding the new positions.
On Monday, the Department of Education launched their Gender Action Plan 2018-2020, which seeks a more equal gender split in higher education institutions across Ireland. The plan calls for professorships to be accounted for by a minimum of 40% women and 40% men by 2024.
The plan advocates that the institutions should set short-, medium- and long-term goals for the gender ratios of those in the top positions in academic, management and support staff.
The creation of up to thirty women-only positions in universities over the next three years are to be financially supported by the government in an attempt to reduce gender inequality in leadership. To date, no Irish university has seen a woman take on the role of President or Provost, including Trinity.
Speaking to the Irish Times, Doyle explained: “This is something that makes huge sense, but what I can understand from what I have seen in the newspapers, there is something else being suggested, which are female-only posts. I don’t think that’s necessarily the best way to get to the end.”
Doyle also suggested that the women who filled these newly created positions, or even their colleagues, could see the positions as lesser or not as worthy in some way. She believes that any new initiative or changes that would be made in the higher level education system should be done in conversation with colleges and universities, to avoid creating new inequalities.
Launching the new plan, Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor stated: “Our Higher Education Institutions should always be beacons of equality, diversity and inclusion . . . I know that the targets contained within this report will affect real change.”
The Irish Universities Association (IUA) offered its support for the plan, with IUA Director Jim Miley calling the plan an “opportunity” to create a “step-change in gender equality across higher education”. IUA represents Ireland’s seven universities, including Trinity.