Minister Mitchell O’Connor opens Major European Conference on Gender Equality in Higher Education

Posted on: 21 August 2018

A major European Conference on Gender Equality in Higher Education was opened by the Minister of State for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor yesterday (August 20th) in Trinity College Dublin.

Academics, policy makers, gender equality practitioners and administrators from Ireland’s universities, institutes of technology and universities Europe-wide are  participating at the three-day conference with ‘Gender in academia and research:Countering persistent and emerging challenges to equality’ as its theme.

Minister Mitchell O’Connor who has established a taskforce on Gender Equality within our Higher Education Institutions is determined that Ireland’s female academics will have all the same possibilities of career advancement as their male counterparts. On opening the conference Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor said: “This is an ideal opportunity for Ireland to outline the advances we are making towards tackling gender inequality in our third level institutions. This conference provides a major international meeting point of higher education researchers and policy makers, and we can learn from the experiences of colleagues in other countries, to assist us in addressing the challenges that we all face.”

The conference provides an international forum to discuss and exchange information and experiences on the challenges related to gender in academia, gender equality promotion and policy interventions in higher education and research institutions. Conference contributors will discuss the interventions required in higher education and research institutions and outline a vision for greater gender equality in higher education and research.

Professor Eileen Drew, Director at Trinity Centre for Gender Equality and Leadership,  who is the national organiser of the conference said: “In the light of CAO points announcements today it is important to remind ourselves that, as in previous years, girls continue to outperform boys in the vast majority of Leaving Certificate subjects, securing a higher proportion of top grades (grades one, two or three) in all but half a dozen subjects.  Furthermore, young women in Ireland outnumber their male counterparts as undergraduate (51%) and postgraduate students (55%) and this now carries through to doctoral students where women make up half the total.”

“Thereafter, and in common with other EU countries, Ireland demonstrates the gendered leakage from the higher education pipeline as women constitute 44% of academic staff but only 24% of professors. Worse still, not one Irish University is (or has ever been) headed by a woman. The Irish economy cannot afford to underutilise its bank of talent. Hence this Conference is a timely reminder of the importance and relevance of achieving gender equality in the higher education.”

Gender equality is actively on the Irish agenda in the Higher Education Institutions (HEI) landscape, through the entry of Athena SWAN into Irish HEIs and the Higher Education Authority’s Review and monitoring.Playing host to the conference, Trinity’s Vice Provost and Chief Academic Officer, Professor Chris Morash commented on the University’s own commitment to gender equality: “Inclusivity, equality and diversity are core values for Trinity and are enshrined in our recent Strategic Plan.  We strive to create an inclusive College community in which women and men participate at all levels and where all are recognised fully for their contribution to the university.  These are fundamental principles that underpin Trinity’s excellence.”

Professor Morash, Professor Drew and the international conference coordinator, Professor Liisa Husu of Orebro University in Sweden joined the Minister in the official opening.

The Keynote address will be given by Professor Anna Wahl, Vice President of KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden who will speak on ‘Gender mainstreaming in practice – organising for change and raising gender awareness’.

For full details see: The 2018 Gender Equality in Higher Education Conference