HEA welcomes launch of new Senior Academic Leadership Initiative targeted at areas of significant underrepresentation by women



By Maura O'Shea

Posted: 21 June, 2019

  • The Senior Academic Leadership Initiative (SALI) funded by the Department of Education and skills and managed by the HEA, aims to support Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to deliver on equality goals;
  • Up to 45 senior academic leadership posts will be awarded over three years under new initiative;
  • HEA Chief Executive, Mr. Paul O’Toole: “This initiative is about proactively addressing the need for greater gender diversity in senior leadership positions within our higher education sector, attracting and retaining a highly talented academic workforce into the top jobs.”

Today (21st June 2019), Ireland’s Higher Education Authority (HEA), is launching a new initiative to help address underrepresentation in senior leadership roles within our higher education institutions (HEIs). The Senior Academic Leadership Initiative, (SALI), is aimed at supporting HEIs to take positive action to accelerate and achieve their gender equality and diversity goals and objectives.  It has been developed in collaboration with a working group of representatives from the HEIs.

According to research conducted by the HEA* in 2017 only 24% of high-level Professor posts were held by women; compared to 51% women Lecturers, which are entry level academic posts in the university sector.

And this imbalance shows no sign of changing soon. Data analysis conducted by the Gender Equality Taskforce for their 2018-2020 Action Plan suggests that the current approach to recruitment and promotion of underrepresented candidates could take some 20 years to achieve gender balance at professor level in universities – a minimum of 40% female professors.Over the next three years, the SALI will award funding for up to 45 senior academic leadership posts in HEIs across Ireland, specifically aimed at attracting outstanding female applicants both from within the sector in Ireland and internationally. The SALI will assist in increasing the number of women involved in the decision-making processes in the institutions.

Commenting at the launch of the SALI, HEA Chief Executive, Mr. Paul O’Toole said: “This initiative is about proactively addressing the need for greater gender diversity in senior leadership positions within our higher education sector, attracting and retaining a highly talented academic workforce into the top jobs. We want candidates to know that Irish HEIs are committed to gender equality, through the provision of their Gender Action Plans and demonstration of evidence that they are progressing their stated objectives and targets to achieve organisational and cultural change. Gender equality will help Irish HEIs maximise their pursuit of excellence and successfully meet the many social, economic and cultural challenges of the future.”

Dr Gemma Irvine, Head of Policy and Strategic Planning, HEA said: “After a period of austerity, where we have an Employment Control Framework (ECF) on staff numbers and at the same time the numbers of students coming into third level were increasing, HEIs are in need of new and additional staff at senior levels.  The Government has recognised this need and responded with 45 new and additional posts that will be funded in areas where there is a significant under-representation of women, thereby helping to address two important issues in HEIs, the need for more staff and the need to increase the numbers of women at senior levels in the HEIs.”

Dr Ross Woods, heading up the new Centre of Excellence for Gender Equality in the HEA stated: “The reason why women are not to be found in the same proportion as men in the most senior positions is not because women are not talented or driven enough to fill these roles, it is because numerous factors within HEIs, conscious and unconscious, cultural and structural, mean that women face a number of barriers to progression, which are not experienced to the same degree by their male colleagues. In this context, talent alone is not always enough to guarantee success and the Centre of Excellence looks forward to working with HEIs to help remove systematic barriers in the organisation and culture of institutions, where they exist.”

The Call for Applications to SALI opens 21st June 2019, with a deadline of 18th October 2019 for applications from HEIs, the outcome of this Call will be announced in November 2019.

Call for Applications