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Home Article Ireland’s higher education institutions pledge to tackle gender inequality for staff

Ireland’s higher education institutions pledge to tackle gender inequality for staff

In a major national initiative supported by the Higher Education Authority, the Athena SWAN Charter will be expanded to Ireland from today.

Athena-SWAN-Charter-7Seven universities, 14 institutes of technology and the Royal College of Surgeons today signed up to a charter committing them to advance women’s careers in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM) employment in academia. In a major national initiative supported by the Higher Education Authority, the Athena SWAN Charter will be expanded to Ireland from today.

Figures published by the Higher Education Authority in December highlighted gender inequality as an issue for the higher education sector. Across Irish universities, only 19% of professors are women. In institutions of technology, women make up 45% of academic staff but just 29% of senior academic staff. In subjects such as physical science, mathematics, ICT and engineering the gender balance drops even further.

The Athena SWAN Charter, run by UK higher education equality body Equality Challenge Unit (ECU), is a programme that has had a proven impact on gender equality in higher education and research. By introducing the charter to all higher education institutions HEA seeks to renew and refresh the Irish higher education system’s commitment to gender equality.

Launching the charter in Dublin today, Minister for Education and Skills, Jan O’Sullivan said:

‘It is important that our higher level education sector fairly represents the diversity and innovation that are at the heart of Irish society. In the area of STEMM women play a key role in teaching, cutting-edge research and building links with industry and the wider community.

Actively promoting gender equality is an important goal. Gender equality should be central to how all public organisations operate. The principal of equality demands nothing less.

Ensuring the fair representation and career progression of female academics is also important in retaining Ireland’s international reputation for the quality and impact of our scientific community.

I congratulate the institutions who have signed up to ECU’s Athena SWAN Charter, who will be playing a part of building cultures where all, whatever their gender, can thrive.’

Tom Boland, Chief Executive at the Higher Education Authority commented:

‘The HEA is absolutely committed to the promotion of gender equality among students and staff across the Irish higher education system. We welcome and support this national initiative by our higher education institutions and are eager to see real and substantial progress in addressing gender imbalance in the immediate years ahead.

The ECU Athena SWAN Charter will help to provide a framework through which higher education institutions and their departments can meet these aims and aspirations. The level of commitment across the sector shows that institutions are ready and willing to address the inequalities that exist – which will be crucial in broadening and deepening the reservoir of talent on which our academic and scientific community depends.’

David Ruebain, Chief Executive of Equality Challenge Unit, said:

‘ECU’s Athena SWAN Charter has had a lasting impact on gender equality and women’s careers in STEMM, and we are delighted that the Higher Education Authority and the Irish HE sector have invited us to run the programme here for the first time. Through this commitment to addressing cultures and attitudes, the participants are setting off on a path to real change.

The charter itself is currently evolving, and will expand to cover gender equality in arts, humanities, social science, business and law departments this year. Once the first year of the pilot has been reviewed, we will assess if we can also expand the scope in Ireland.’

Participants will be able to submit for an Athena SWAN award in April 2015, which involves a robust process of self-assessment and peer review.

Published date: February 5, 2015