NUI Galway receives award for advancing gender equality

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NUI Galway has received the Athena Swan Bronze award for advancing gender equality within the university.

Qualifying for the bronze award has been a subject of some urgency for higher-education institutes since under new guidelines they must receive the award by the end of 2019.

If they don’t they won’t qualify for research funding from Science Foundation Ireland, the Irish Research Council, or the Health Research Board.

According to the Irish Times NUIG received the bronze award along with Maynoooth University at the latest round of awards.

The Athena SWAN charter was set up by the Equality Challenge Unit in the UK back in 2005 to recognise institutes that commit to advancing women’s careers in higher education and research.

It came to Ireland in 2015 at the same time it expanded to include the arts and humanities, business, and law.

Proffesor Anne Scot, Vice-President for Equality and Diversity welcomed the award, both for the university and a department level award for the school of medicine, but acknowledged there is still more work to be done.

“It recognises the energetic and sustained work in recent years to address equality challenges in the university. However, we recognise that we are still at an early stage in this important journey.”

NUIG first applied for the bronze award in April 2015 when it opened to Irish universities but didn’t get it at that time.

In the past few years the university has been involved in several high profile gender discrimination cases about promotions for lecturers.

Dr. Sheehy-Skeffington, a highly recognised botanist who has worked at NUIG since 1990, took her case to the Equality Tribunal when she was turned down for a senior lecturer post in 2009.

In 2014 The Tribunal found that NUIG had discriminated against Dr. Sheehy-Skeffington on the basis of her gender.

In its ruling the Tribunal ordered NUIG to promote her and pay €70,000 euro in damages.

Five other women, Dr. Sylvie Lannegrand, Dr. Róisín Healy, Dr. Margaret Hodgins, Dr. Adrienne Gorman, Dr. Elizabeth Tilley also pursued legal action against NUIG over that round of promotions.

Dr. Tilley reached an agreement with the university granting her a promotion after the case’s first hearing before the Labour Court last October.

The joint action initiated by the other four professors is still ongoing.

In the aftermath NUIG established a Gender Equality Task Force which introduced gender quotas for promotions and worked on improving supports for parental leave.