Minister Mitchell O’Connor launches Gender Equality Taskforce for Higher Education

Mary Mitchell O’Connor, Minister of State with special responsibility for Higher Education today (6th November 2017) has announced the establishment of a Gender Equality Taskforce.

The Minister has appointed this high level taskforce to prepare a prioritised three year action plan, in consultation with stakeholders.

The Task force will also oversee a national systems review of the recruitment and promotion policies and practices currently in place in higher education institutions, with a view to identifying good-practice and highlighting areas that need improvement. This will feed into the development of actions for the action plan.

Funding of €500,000 was provided in Budget 2018 to support the work of the Taskforce and greater gender equality in the sector. A regular reporting mechanism will be put in place to track progress on the various actions to be implemented.

The Task Force will build on work done for the HEA National Review on Gender Equality in Irish Higher Education Institutions, which was published in 2016. That report set out an important analysis of the position in relation to gender equality in Irish higher education institutions and made recommendations to improve the position.
The Task Force will identify good practices in the higher education sector, including in those institutions who have been awarded Athena Swan awards and lessons learnt from those that have not been successful with Athena Swan applications.
Commenting on the review of recruitment and promotion systems, the Minister said that “I was very concerned that nearly three quarters of respondents to a HEA survey on gender equality indicated that there were issues in relation to transparency in recruitment, promotion and progress in higher education institutions. I want these issues thoroughly examined and changes put in place where needed”.

The Minister went on to say that “I know there are good practices in our higher education system, but we need to ensure that all institutions learn from these. Where improvements are required, they need to be addressed without delay. Having a national action plan with progress monitored on a regular basis will help to drive the change that we need to see. It will give us a clear line of sight on all relevant activities across the sector. “

The Chairperson of the Task Force, Marie O’Connor, said “I am delighted to have been asked by Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor to chair this Task Force on Gender Equality within our Higher Educations Institutions. Gender equality starts at home – none of us today have lesser ambitions for our daughters than our sons! It is important as all students enter education that there are female role models and mentors and this is even more vital in the Higher Education Institutes which are so influential in the development of skills for future careers of young people.

We know that diversity fosters innovation, brings new ideas, new ways of working and makes for better communities and businesses. Women are significantly underrepresented in top positions in the higher education sectors In Ireland and indeed across Europe. The recent HEA Review of Gender Equality in Irish Higher Education Institutes indicates that talent alone is not always enough to guarantee success for women and that a culture change is necessary to foster an environment where our daughters, sisters, aunts and our mums have equal opportunity and encouragement as their male counterparts to progress in their career pipeline and that this influential sector in Ireland achieves a long lasting and sustainable change. The task force and l look forward to working with the Minister, Department, Higher Education Authority, higher education institutes and stakeholders on how to best address gender equality.

Taskforce members

Chairperson Marie O’Connor
Marie O ‘Connor was a financial services partner at PwC in Ireland for 30 years. She has also been a board member of a number of State and Not for Profit organisations. Marie was the founding Irish Country Lead for 30% Club and continues as a member of its steering committee. Nominated in 2017 as one of Financial Times FT Heroes for Championing Women in Business, Marie was also honoured by Irish America Magazine as one of its Wall St 50 for 2017 and its Inaugural Top 50 Women in 2016

Mr Ryan Shanks
Ryan Shanks is Head of Strategy Practice at Accenture Ireland, delivering technology-enabled strategy and transformation initiatives that position Accenture s clients to take advantage of the latest business opportunities.
Ryan has over 17 years’ experience of successfully delivering large-scale, complex change and transformation programmes across multiple industry and the public sector.

Professor Philip Nolan
Professor Philip Nolan, President of Maynooth University, overseeing all operations from teaching and research to capital development and international initiatives. He is responsible for setting the future direction and goals for the University.

Dr. Patricia Mulcahy
Dr. Mulcahy is President of Institute of Technology Carlow. She was recently appointed as the new IBEC South East Regional President. She is also chairperson of the South East Regional Skills Forum.

Sheila Nunan
Sheila Nunan is the General Secretary of the INTO. She has been a member of the Executive of the INTO since 1995 and was INTO President in 2005/2006. Sheila is the current President of ICTU having been elected at the Biennial Delegate Conference in Belfast in July 2017.

HEA Review of systems of recruitment and promotion

The Minister has requested the Higher Education Authority to commission a review of the systems of recruitment and promotion in operation in publicly funded higher education institutions in the Republic of Ireland will be conducted. This work will be overseen by the Taskforce announced today.

The objective of the review is to provide a national position of the recruitment and promotion practices currently in place in the HEIs, with a view to identifying good-practice and highlighting areas that need improvement. Institutions will be expected to take steps to improve their systems in a specified timescale where the need for improvement is identified.

The review will seek to identify good practice in the system including in those institutions who have been awarded Athena Swan institute awards or have made applications.

The terms of reference for the Task Force will be to:
• Oversee a review of the systems of recruitment and promotion policies and practices in higher education institutions,
• Review national and international practice and relevant literature including the Review on Gender Equality published by the HEA in 2016 and good practices arising from the Athena Swan process and lessons learnt from unsuccessful applications,
• Consult with relevant stakeholders,
• Prepare a prioritised three year action plan.

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