20 women-only professor positions approved to close academic gender gap

3 Jan 2020

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A Government initiative will create 20 women-only professor roles in higher education institutions across the country.

Minister of State for higher education Mary Mitchell O’Connor, TD, announced today (3 January) the approval of 20 women-only professorship roles as part of the Senior Academic Leadership Initiative (SALI). Launched last year, its goal is to accelerate progress in achieving gender balance within academia.

The roles were approved by an international assessment panel chaired by Prof Lesley Yellowlees of the University of Edinburgh. Having received approval, 12 institutions will be tasked with filling the positions.

The Higher Education Authority (HEA) 2018 Report on Higher Education Institutional Staff Profiles by Gender showed that only 24pc of professors in Ireland were women, despite making up 51pc of lecturers at university level.

‘A truly game-changing moment’

The HEA Gender Taskforce, created in the same year, estimated that it could take up to 20 years to achieve an average of 40pc women at professor level. It advised the creation gender-specific posts – in addition to other measures – which lead to the formation of SALI.

Mitchell O’Connor described today’s announcement as “a truly game-changing moment in Irish academia”.

“I am incredibly proud that this intervention will ensure a swifter gender re-balance, addressing the current representation of women at the highest levels of our institutions,” she said.

“Appointments to these posts will be subject to the highest standard and rigorous assessment processes as currently adopted by the institutions for prestigious posts at these levels.”

The Government said that it has provided additional funding for the initiative, with institutes of technology to receive up to €4m to fund these new roles by 2021.

The roles include:

Dublin City University

Professor in computer science and a professor of plasma physics

TU Dublin

Professor of public trust in media, arts and technology; and a professorship in inclusive computer science

Trinity College Dublin

Chair in mathematics and a chair in political economy

IT Carlow

Director of engineering research and innovation

University College Cork

Professor of Irish gender history and a professor of microbiome and health science

NUI Galway

Professor of engineering and a professor of older adult health

University of Limerick

Professor of data science and statistical learning; and a professor of genomics and biomedical sciences

Maynooth University

Professor in physical geography in the area of climate science; and a professor in computer science in the area of software platform, architecture and society

Athlone IT

Dean of graduate studies and research

University College Dublin

Professor of biomedical engineering and a professor of materials chemistry

Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies

Senior physics professor

Cork IT

Chair of cybersecurity

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic