20 Women-Only Professorship Roles To Be Created in 12 Third Level Institutions

Andrea Andres looks into the initiative of increasing women in academia.

The first 20 women-only professorships out of 45 have been approved as a part of a government initiative to increase the participation of women in upper levels of academia. The positions are to be spread out across 12 institutions - eight universities and institutes of technologies in Carlow, Cork and Athlone as well as the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies. 

The third level institutions were determined by a competition. 18 colleges were invited to apply for three of these positions and a total of 40 submissions were received. They were judged based on the strength of the cases they made for the job as well as their commitment to continually level the playing field for women in academia. The institutions were assessed by an expert international panel, chaired by Professor Lesley Yellowlees of Edinburgh University. 

Research by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) revealed that 51% of lecturers were female and only 24% of women occupied positions of professorships in universities. Meanwhile, in institutes of technologies, 45% of women were lecturers and 36% of women were senior lecturers. 

The Gender Equality Task Force, created by Mary Mitchell O’Connor, also highlighted that it will take 20 years to achieve a 40% gender balance at a professorial level and seven years for institutes of technology to reach gender parity at its highest levels. 

Mary Mitchell O’Connor stated that: “ [She is] incredibly proud that this intervention will ensure a swifter gender re-balance, addressing the current-representation of women at the highest levels.” She further described the creation of these posts as a “truly a game-changing moment in Irish academia".

The initiative will invite third level institutions in 2020 and 2021 to create another 25 women-only roles in academia.