Minister Harris announces review of gender equality in Higher Education

Maura O'Shea

By Maura O'Shea

Posted: 15 March, 2022

An illustration of a man and a woman standing on either plate of an old fashioned weighing scale. They both weigh equal amounts.

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD has today (Tuesday, March 15th)  announced the Higher Education Authority will carry out a review of gender equality in Higher Education.

The Expert Group will be chaired by the former Secretary General of the Department of Social Protection Niamh O’Donoghue. It will consist of six national and international members with expertise and experience in the area of gender equality.

Minister Harris said:  “We have seen significant improvements across Higher Education when it comes to Gender Equality.

“But we acknowledge there is much more to be done. This review will assess progress since the first review of its kind in 2016 and make recommendations to ensure that gender equality is amplified in Higher Education Institutions as they move into the future.

“The expert group is expected to make five to ten high-level recommendations as to how, in their view, higher education institutions might enhance their equality policies and their implementation to support gender equality.

“We look forward to ensuring that we can continue to support and improve gender equality, and create an inclusive culture and environment where individuals are able to thrive, irrespective of gender.”

Chair of the Expert Group Niamh O’Donoghue said: “Diversity is a key strength of Irish higher education. Institutions which allow inequality to exist cannot perform to their full potential.

“The social and economic benefits of equality and diversity are undeniable. It is timely to consider how work on gender equality can be leveraged and diversified to ensure equality of opportunity for all staff.”

The Head of the HEA’s Centre of Excellence for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Dr Ross Woods, said: “This national review will allow us to quantify progress towards gender equality in higher education and make evidence-based decisions as to how we maintain this momentum.

“Our institutions have made significant advances in recent years, but this is a cultural problem that has by no means been fixed. As we emerge from the Covid 19 pandemic, it is crucial that gender equality initiatives are continued and amplified.”

The Expert Group will consult with key higher education stakeholders including senior Higher Education Institutions, the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, funders and relevant state agencies.

The HEA will also run an online consultation open to all staff in higher education in Ireland.

The final report will include an overview of gender equality in Irish Higher Education, focusing on what has worked well, what has not, and what the next steps should be. It is expected to be published in late 2022.

The independent Expert Group members are as follows:

    • Dr Allison Kenneally (Vice President for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Waterford Institute of Technology)
    • Dr Karl Kitching (Reader in Education Policy, University of Birmingham)
    • Dr Marcela Linkova (Head of Centre for Gender and Science at the Institute of Sociology of the Czech Academy of Sciences)
    • Dr Philip Owende (Assistant Head of Academic Affairs, TU Dublin)
    • Professor Anne Scott (former Vice President for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, NUI Galway)

It will assess progress since 2016 by analysing progress to date, including a review of the implementation of the 2016 recommendations and analysis of data from the HEI Staff Profiles by Gender 2016-2021.


Notes to the Editor

The 2016 HEA National Review of Gender Equality in Irish Higher Education Institutions and the Gender Action Plan 2018-2020 have been developed by the HEA in recent years to inform the implementation of a gender equality framework in Irish higher education (HE).

As part of this framework, the HEA Centre of Excellence for Gender Equality was established in June 2019, evolving into the HEA Centre of Excellence for Equality, Diversity & Inclusion in August 2020. In addition to the work in the broad area of EDI, the Centre oversees a number of initiatives in relation to gender equality in higher education, including the Senior Academic Leadership InitiativeGender Equality Enhancement Fund, the Athena SWAN Charter, the annual publication of staff data by gender.

To ensure sustainable progress towards gender equality, both the HEA Expert Group and the Gender Equality Taskforce recommended reviews of progress at the end of the lifespan of their recommendations. In line with these timelines, the HEA is now undertaking a Second National Review of Gender Equality in Irish Higher Education Institutions. This Review will assess the progress made since the 2016 Review and the perception of gender equality among HEI staff and make recommendations to ensure the continued advancement of gender equality in the higher education sector.

More: gender equality, Higher Education, Minister for Further and Higher Education, minister simon harris

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