UCD school of history not fulfilling gender equality aims

Image Credit: Dominic Daly

The UCD School of History is failing in their gender equality aims in the area of staffing.

With the departure of Associate Professor Lindsey Earner-Byrne from the UCD School of History, the department now has only two remaining female academics at this level. There are four Associate Professors roles held by men in the School, which means that there are currently two male Associate Professors for every one female. This is not in line with the School of History’s commitment to their pursuance of the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) strategy. While there has been the appointment of several women within the School of History in recent years, it has not extended to Professor and Full Professor level. 

Assistant Professor Mark Jones from the School of History spoke of the measures the school was taking in their attempts to address the problem. He credits the Head of the School, William Mulligan for much of the progress. This includes the work done in coordination with the Athena Swan Award, of which 16 schools across UCD, including the School of History, are recipients of the Bronze Award. As part of the work on equality that would qualify a school for this award, the Head of the School has reformed the promotions process, and Professor Jones argues that “it will take time for this progress to be reflected in promotions to senior levels.” He also maintains that the situation in UCD is largely more forthright than other universities in the State. 

On a college-wide level, lack of childcare support for staff is also a problem. In the 2016 Higher Education Authority (HEA) report on gender equality in universities, 50% of respondents named ‘childcare provisions and supports as being of critical importance.’ Childcare is an issue that disproportionately affects female employees, and can often act as a barrier to employment, so the opening of a creche for staff would have a positive impact on female staff and academics. Associate Professor Jones clarifies that the university is aware of the issues surrounding childcare and that the “current university equality plan may have some concrete proposals in place to address them, including eventually the provision of a new creche.” 

Despite the departure of one of the few female academics at senior level leaving UCD, and the current male to female ratio among staff not in favour of gender equality, Professor Jones suggests that while progress is slow, it is being made, and takes responsibility for the need to be a part of the discussion on how to address the issue “We (staff members) continue to have robust discussions on how to accelerate that progress best.”