The Senior Academic Leadership Initiative

I’ve been so busy over the last week or so that I forgot to mention that on Friday (21st June) the Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor announced a new scheme to improve the gender balance in senior academic roles in Irish universities.

While women make up more than half of university lecturers here in Ireland, just 24% are professors, and the new scheme plans to tackle that under-representation at senior levels by creating up to 45 academic leadership positions specifically for women over the next three years.

The Senior Academic Leadership Initiative (SALI) is funded by the Department of Education and Skills and managed by the Higher Education Authority. More details of the scheme can be found here and the call for applications can be found here.

In summary: new and additional senior academic leadership posts will be funded in areas where

  • there is clear evidence of significant gender under-representation
  • where this appointment will have significant impact within the HEI and the relevant faculty/department/functional unit
  • where they would be a proportionate and effective means to achieve accelerated and sustainable change within an institution

Predictably there has been a bit of a backlash to this announcement from some quarters, but I think it’s an excellent idea and it has my full support. Note further that Legal advice from the Attorney General has confirmed that this policy approach is consistent with EU and national employment and equality law.

I hope a significant number of these positions go to outstanding female academics in STEM disciplines, where the under-representation is indeed significant – and hope we can also attract some here to Maynooth! We don’t have any female academics in the Department of Theoretical Physics….

It’s important, however, to bear in mind that this scheme addresses only one of the issues relating to gender discrimination in Irish higher education and there are many others, especially in STEM disciplines (such as recruitment of early-career level) which will require separate actions.





5 Responses to “The Senior Academic Leadership Initiative”

  1. Anton Garrett Says:

    When my dentist is drilling in my mouth, I want to know that he or she passed dental finals on merit, not as part of a tick-box exercise by social engineers having political power. It matters rather less immediately to me in academe but the principle is the same.

    • telescoper Says:

      And how do you know that the career structure for dentists has not led to the best ones leaving the profession?

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      Counterfactuals are unprovable either way; Hypotheses non fingo.

      It might be harder to think well of this scheme if you have just been passed over for a chair and not told why.

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      I suspect that the GMVH has a bearing on your observations.

  2. telescoper Says:

    Quillette is not really any kind of `third way’. I haven’t read much of its content but it seems to me very right-wing, often blatantly attempting to legitimize the alt-right movement.

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