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Gender Equality in Higher Education Institutions

Wednesday 3 July: Conference day one, 4:00pm – 4:30pm parallel session



Room 3 – 303-G15 Sem



Dr Sharon Feeney
Technological University Dublin, Ireland

Dr Sinead Flanagan
Royal College of Surgeons, Ireland 

Dr Gemma Irvine
Higher Education Authority, Ireland 

Dr Deirdre Lillis
Technological University Dublin, Ireland 

Dr Lynn Ramsey
Letterkenny Institute of Technology, Ireland



Higher education institutions (HEIs) are uniquely placed to show leadership in addressing broad societal challenges and have a potentially transformative role in achieving the UN sustainability goals for gender equality. However, progress on gender equality within many HEIs seems almost intractably slow.

A key input to policy development is learning from appropriate international comparators. New Zealand and Ireland share many geographical, cultural and economic characteristics: small islands with similar population and GDP, globalised economies dependent on international trade and education systems which consistently perform well across a spectrum of indicators. Irish and New Zealand HEIs are also similar in terms of gender equality. In 2017, around half of academic positions were held by women in both countries. However, in Ireland only 24% of professors were women, an increase of just 6% from 2013 (HEA, 2018). New Zealand figures were only marginally better with 26% of female professors and deans, an increase of 7%, from 19% in 2012 according to Ministry of Education figures. The level of underrepresentation of women in senior academic positions and the slow rate of change is problematic and interventions are required to systematically and sustainably address this.

This paper reviews recent national level policy and the specific objectives set to address the under-representation of women in senior academic roles in Ireland. Themes include leadership, governance and management structures, recruitment and promotion, gender action plans and use of the Athena SWAN Charter (HEA, 2018; HEA, 2016). Early stage responses from policy makers, funding agencies and HEIs are described including the Senior Academic Leadership Initiative, the establishment of a new Centre of Excellence for Gender Equality and the appointment of Vice-Presidents for Equality and Diversity In HEIs. These are compared to initiatives in New Zealand. Early consideration of policy responses in both countries will inform an agenda for comparative research, practice and future policy.



Report of the Expert Group: HEA National Review of Gender Equality in Irish Higher Education Institutions. Higher Education Authority, Ireland. 2016.
Higher Education Institutional Staff Profiles by Gender. Higher Education Authority 2018.
Report of the Gender Equality Taskforce: Gender  Action Plan 2018-2020. Higher Education Authority, Ireland. 2018.


Presentation topic

Tertiary – Leadership

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