Trinity is unlikely to introduce a Vice-President for Gender Equality, one of the key recommendations of the Higher Education Authority’s (HEA) report on gender inequality in higher education.
While College is currently conducting a review of the report and how its recommendations can be applied in Trinity, the Vice-Provost, Chris Morash, who is leading the implementation of the report, told The University Times that it is unlikely a new role will be created with the responsibility for gender equality.
“We don’t do that and it’s part of the way the institution works. I think it would be odd to have a vice-president just for gender, when there are a lot of other areas we don’t have vice-presidents for, so I think there’s certainly a capacity for that role to be assumed, by somebody who is in that level already”, Morash said.
Trinity, unlike other universities in Ireland, doesn’t have many vice-president positions, instead having one vice-provost alongside numerous senior officers.
Morash said Trinity is currently looking at integrating the responsibility for gender equality into an existing senior officer’s role, something he believes will be “common throughout the sector”.
The HEA made these recommendations in their report, “National Review of Gender Equality in Irish Higher Education Institutions”, written in response to numerous claims of gender discrimination in NUI Galway, which have since resulted in a number of legal cases against the college. It found widespread gender inequality across Irish universities. The report, published in June, set out a number of suggestions that higher education institutions should implement in order to improve the position of women in Irish colleges and universities.
At the moment, NUI Galway is the only Irish university to introduce a vice-president for gender equality. It was the college that sparked the national debate on gender equality after the Equality Tribunal found that Dr Micheline Sheehy-Skeffington, a former lecturer at NUI Galway, was discriminated against when she was turned down for a promotion in 2009.
The College Board, in a meeting on February 22nd, met to discuss what Trinity’s response to the report will be over the next three years. An implementation document, brought to the College Board by Morash and obtained by The University Times, sets out three options for Trinity, following the recommendation that each Irish university introduce a vice-president for gender equality. According to the report, Trinity could appoint a vice-president, as outlined in the report, by “integrat[ing] the powers, status and functions” of the role into an existing role or group or “maintain[ing] existing roles and structures”.
While the final decision has yet to be made, Morash suggested that it is unlikely Trinity will choose to introduce a new position for gender equality into the college structure. His personal view, he said, is that the role could be integrated into the role of vice-provost.
“One of the roles of the vice-provost is special responsibility for staffing and a lot of this is about staffing. And obviously the Chief Academic Officer has responsibility for the academic function. A lot of what’s in here is subsumed under those two categories”, he said.
“At the moment I’m leading out on this, I don’t think we can give any stronger statement that we’re taking this seriously”, Morash added.
Trinity has commissioned its own report, commonly known as the Sanders report, into promoting gender equality among academic staff and in its promotions procedures. Morash said the aim was that gender equality “just becomes a part of the way we do business”.
Morash said that Trinity were trying to move beyond the “binary” nature of the HEA report, which refers exclusively to men and women, to an approach that recognises a wider spectrum of gender identity.
The HEA report, he said, is “a way of thinking about gender that a lot of people have moved beyond, thinking about spectrum gender identities”.
“In some ways it’s been formulated in terms that the wider discussion of gender that has actually moved beyond”, he added.
College will, in the coming months, debate a number of the report’s other recommendations, including ensuring that gender equality is considered in senior academic promotions and in appointment of the Provost. Morash acknowledged that the most serious debate would be over the use of quotas in academic promotions.
A Trinity report last year revealed that women make up 16 per cent of chair professor positions, compared to 84 per cent of men. At the current rate of change, according to the report, this gap would not be solved until 2098. The report found that men make up 56 per cent of academic staff and women 44 per cent in 2015. This is despite the fact that Trinity’s workforce is 53 per cent female.