Gender discrimination battle ends with NUI Galway promoting four lecturers

25 Jul 2018

The Quadrangle building of NUI Galway. Image: Omar Mansour/Shutterstock

Four female NUI Galway lecturers will be promoted after settling a lengthy gender discrimination suit with the institution.

For the past few years, Dr Margaret Hodgins, Dr Sylvie Lannegrand, Dr Adrienne Gorman and Dr Róisín Healy have been involved in a legal dispute with NUI Galway over claims they were overlooked for promotion because of their gender.

At the time, the four women said that despite meeting the qualifications and criteria for promotion to senior lectureship posts, they did not make the 2009 promotion round.

According to The Irish Times, the dispute – which went to the High Court – has been settled and NUI Galway will now promote the women as part of a settlement believed to be worth hundreds of thousands of euro. It is understood that the bulk of the settlement required Government sign-off.

The decision comes four years after plant ecologist Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington successfully won her case at the Equality Tribunal against NUI Galway for the same promotion round, with her awarded €70,000 in damages.

‘These women have been through hell’

Following the 2014 Skeffington decision, five lecturers – including the four now promoted – initiated legal action, with the fifth lecturer having received promotion and compensation in 2017 through the Labour Court.

Speaking after this latest settlement, Skeffington – who donated her compensation to fund the five lecturers’ legal challenge – questioned why it took so long.

“These women have been through hell and should not have had to go through any of this,” she said.

“There has been a huge financial and mental cost for them all. It hasn’t been pleasant. I hope they can all reach a proper settlement.”

In 2017, the Higher Education Authority (HEA) found that NUI Galway had the lowest representation of women professors at just 12pc.

More recently, though, it was recognised for its efforts to promote greater gender equality with the awarding of the internationally recognised Athena Swan bronze award.

Meanwhile, across all Irish higher-education institutions, just 29pc of associate professors are women and this figure falls to 21pc when looking at professors, according to 2017 HEA figures.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic