In 2019, the Centre of Excellence for Gender Equality was established in the HEA. The Centre’s objective is to ensure sustainable acceleration towards gender equality through centralised support for HEIs and dissemination of good practice. In 2020, the Centre transformed into the Centre of Excellence for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.
The Centre runs a number of important gender equality initiatives, for example the Senior Academic Leadership Initiative, a national call which first launched on 21st June 2019.
The Centre engages with HEIs on the Athena SWAN charter, a framework which is used across the world to support and transform gender equality in higher education and research. In this context, the Centre represents the HEA in the Athena SWAN National Committee and the Intersectionality working group.
Under the Gender Equality Enhancement Fund, the Centre awards funding annually to applicant institutions to advance gender equality initiatives in Irish higher education. The most recent funding call was in 2022.
In 2015, in Ireland 81% of professorial positions were held by men and, while women represented 62% of non-academic staff, 72% of the highest paid non-academic staff were male. The under-representation of women among staff in higher education, particularly at senior levels, is an intractable problem internationally.
In this context, the HEA National Review of Gender Equality in Irish Higher Education Institutions was published in 2016. Since then, the Athena Swan Charter has been extended to Ireland implementing the recommendations of the Report of the Expert Group.
In the same year, the HEA published the first Institutional Staff Profiles by Gender. The profiles have been compiled and published every year since. These publications, and other publications by the Centre, are available to download from the HEA website.
In 2017, Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor T.D. established the Gender Equality Taskforce to identify significant measures, drawing on the work of the HEA Expert Group, which could accelerate progress in achieving gender equality in Irish HEIs. This Taskforce developed the Gender Action Plan 2018-2020 building on the report of the Expert Group and recommended a number of initiatives to progress organisation and cultural change.