Irish Research Council welcomes establishment of gender equality task force for higher education sector



Posted: 6 November, 2017

The Irish Research Council has welcomed the launch by Minister of State Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD of a gender equality task force in higher education.

Commenting today, Professor Jane Ohlmeyer, Chair of the Irish Research Council, said: “The establishment of the gender equality task force by the Minister of State for Higher Education is an important development arising from the recommendations of the national gender review, published by the Higher Education Authority last year. 

“Furthermore, it is a timely development: over the past month alone, the discrimination and challenges faced by women across a range of sectors has been very publicly highlighted, both in Ireland and further afield.” 

International leadership

Professor Ohlmeyer said the Irish Research Council has demonstrated international leadership on promoting gender equality, with many research agencies in Europe and beyond looking to its gender policies as a model of good practice that can be replicated locally.

“We were the first dedicated research funding agency in Ireland to publish a gender strategy, which aims to support the integration of sex and gender analysis into research content, and to promote gender equality in research careers across all disciplines” she said.

“We developed a statement on Dignity in the Conduct of Research last year – the first such statement to be issued by an Irish funding agency.  This has been integrated into all Council programmes and is aimed at creating a research system in which all researchers, regardless of gender, are able to reach their full potential at all stages of their career.

“In the statement, we emphasise that people are at the heart of research; that respect for the dignity of the individual is something that the entire research community has a responsibility to protect and promote; and that all researchers are entitled to carry out their work free from any form of harassment, victimisation, or bullying.”

Gender-blind assessment

Professor Ohlmeyer pointed to the Irish Research Council’s introduction of gender-blind assessment for funding awards as proof that concrete measures can be taken to promote gender equality in higher education.

“The introduction of gender-blind assessment for our 2014 and 2015 calls for STEM postdoctoral schemes significantly increased the percentage of awards given to women,” she said.

“When the assessment was not anonymised in 2013, women represented only 35 per cent of awardees, in comparison to 43 per cent of applicants.  After the applications were anonymised, the number of women receiving awards rose to 44 per cent in 2014 and 45 per cent in 2015.

“In addition to gender-blind assessments, we introduced gender balance in our assessment panels: since 2013, just under 60 per cent of panels have comprised a minimum of 40 per cent female representation.”