Expert group to review gender equality in Irish higher education

15 Mar 2022

Image: © kasto/

This is the second national review of the gender equality strategies in Irish higher education institutions.

The Government is carrying out a review of gender equality policies in higher education in the country. The review will be conducted by a group of six national and international experts, and is due to be completed later this year.

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris, TD, announced the review today (March 15). He said the group “would 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”.

He added that the expert group would make “five to 10 high-level recommendations as to how, in their view, higher education institutions might enhance their equality policies and their implementation to support gender equality”.

The group will be chaired by the former secretary general of the Department of Social Protection, Niamh O’Donoghue.

“Diversity is a key strength of Irish higher education. Institutions which allow inequality to exist cannot perform to their full potential,” she said.

“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.”

O’Donoghue will be joined by Dr Allison Kenneally, VP for equality, diversity and inclusion at Waterford Institute of Technology; Dr Karl Kitching, reader in education policy at University of Birmingham; Dr Marcela Linkova, head of the Centre for Gender and Science at the Institute of Sociology of the Czech Academy of Sciences; Dr Philip Owende, assistant head of academic affairs at TU Dublin; and Prof Anne Scott, former VP for equality, diversity and inclusion at NUI Galway.

The group’s findings are expected to be published in late 2022. 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.

The head of the Higher Education Authority (HEA) Centre of Excellence for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Dr Ross Woods, said the review would allow the HEA to “quantify progress towards gender equality in higher education” and make “evidence-based decisions” to maintain progress.

The HEA will run an online consultation open to all staff in higher education in Ireland as part of the review process.

“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,” Woods said.

The expert group will consult with higher education stakeholders including senior higher education institutions, the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, funders and relevant State agencies.

There have been efforts since the last review in 2016 to improve outcomes for those working in the higher education sector. Last March, an interactive dashboard was launched to track staff in Ireland’s higher education sector and help identify progress that is being made towards gender equality.

Earlier this year, the Irish Research Council’s gender equality strategy review was published. The review found there had been some improvements for women working as researchers in Ireland over the last decade in the area of gender equality, but highlighted some steps that could be taken to make research careers more accessible to women.

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Blathnaid O’Dea is Careers reporter at Silicon Republic