There has never been a female Irish university president... why? 5 years ago

There has never been a female Irish university president... why?

Since the establishment of the first Irish university over 400 years ago, a woman has never occupied the most senior role possible - president.


And yet, the number of women and men attending universities in Ireland as students is almost equal.

According to data released by the Higher Education Authority (HEA), gender inequality starts to become an issue once we start to look at the more senior roles in Irish universities.

Although around half of lecturers working in Ireland are women, only 21 percent are professors. 36 percent are senior lecturers, and 29 percent are associate professors.

The rest, of course, are men.


Female university president

The HEA recently stated that they want to cut funding to certain universities if gender inequality was not being tackled head on.

The authority said that state funding needed to be prioritised to institutions that were addressing the issue, and that gender quotas should be introduced sooner rather than later.

Jane Ohlmeyer of Trinity College Dublin recently spoke to The Irish Times about the "huge talent pool" that is being missed out on by Irish universities.


The senior academic said that Ireland is trailing behind other European countries in terms of gender equality, and that the system currently in place needs to be addressed.

“Mediocre men are outperforming outstanding women because of the nature of the system. Sometimes it’s because women are not putting themselves forward, in other cases it’s because it’s a patriarchy. However we try to gloss over that, it’s a reality.”


Like most professions that suffer from gender inequality high in the ranks, academia has tried to hide the fact for years.


Now, however, with the HEA's report published for all to see, more and more people are speaking out about this problem.

In 2014, NUI Galway was forced to pay lecturer Mary Dempsey €81,000 due to claims that they were discriminating against her gender and disability.

The same university was also sued by four female employees last year after each of their promotion applications were unsuccessful.

There are many reasons why this gender gap is so wide - most of them being the same reasons why there tends to be a lack of women in senior roles across all professions.



This inequality is surprising considering there are just as many female students as there are males in Irish universities.

As well as this, a gender analysis of last years' Leaving Cert results showed that girls tend to outperform boys in the majority of their subjects.

Although more boys study subjects like science and engineering in school, the girls who do pick those subjects tend to get higher grades in the Leaving Cert than their male classmates.

The problem, of course, is not that girls and woman are incapable... but that they are not being encouraged, promoted, or even given a chance.

Over 400 years have passed without there being a female university president in Ireland.

Although only 14 percent of universities around the world are run by women, we are still trailing far behind the pack. It's time for Ireland to put some changes in place.