Gender equality in Irish higher education to be tracked with new tool

8 Mar 2021

Maynooth University’s incoming president, Prof Eeva Leinonen. Image: Maynooth University

The launch of a new ‘gender equality dashboard’ comes as Prof Eeva Leinonen is appointed as the next president of Maynooth University.

A new interactive dashboard has been launched to track staff in Ireland’s higher education sector and help identify progress that is being made towards gender equality.

The National Gender Equality Dashboard will provide an interactive and comparative visualisation of key staff data from Irish higher education institutions including universities, colleges and institutes of technology.

This dashboard will be updated annually, and currently offers baseline data from 2017 to 2019.

“Much work has been done by our higher education institutions in recent years to address systemic gender inequality,” said Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris, TD, who launched the initiative today (8 March).

“In order to sustain this progress we need effective tools like this dashboard to ensure higher education institutions’ organisational and culture change initiatives are evidence-based.”

Dr Alan Wall, chief executive of the Higher Education Authority, said his organisation is committed to eliminating all types of discrimination in higher education and this tool will be a “welcome new resource”.

The dashboard was developed using research at Maynooth University’s All-Island Research Observatory. Dr Gemma Irvine, vice-president for equality and diversity at the university, added that this dashboard will help people “better identify where problems lie and to track progress as we implement our gender equality plan”.

‘An important milestone’

The news comes on the same day it was announced that Prof Eeva Leinonen will become the next president of Maynooth University. She will succeed Prof Philip Nolan, who has led the university for the past decade, from 1 October 2021.

Leinonen has a background in linguistics and psychology, researching pragmatic language development in children and contextual processing deficits of autistic children and young adults.

She is originally from Finland but has held the role of vice-chancellor of Murdoch University in Perth, Australia, since 2016. Before this she was deputy vice-chancellor at the University of Wollongong in New South Wales, and vice-principal of education at King’s College London.

Leinonen will be the third female university president in Ireland. Prof Kerstin Mey became the first when she was appointed as president of the University of Limerick last year, while Prof Maggie Cusack was recently appointed president of the new Munster Technological University.

Speaking about Leinonen’s appointment, Harris said that while we have much more to do on gender equality, this is “an important milestone”.

Sarah Harford was sub-editor of Silicon Republic