Equality & Diversity
THEA publishes first Gender Mission Statement for higher education bodies
As part of her opening address to the European Conference on Gender Equality in Higher Education today, Monday 20 August, Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD announced the launch of the first Gender and Diversity Statement for higher education institutions. The Statement, published today by the Technological Higher Education Association (THEA), will inform policy across all eleven Institutes of Technology and the technological university and is the first such policy statement to be adopted by higher education institutions in Ireland.
The central mission statement commits to ensuring equal opportunities for all persons, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, to access higher education and advance their careers. The Statement will be supported across the entire sector, a primary aim of which will be to increase the number of women in highly paid positions throughout the sector and broaden access to education and career opportunities with a focus specifically on diversity and gender.
The Statement includes six primary objectives:
- To work towards eliminating disparities in education by supporting a culture of inclusion where all have equal access to education;
- To address the imbalance amongst staff and the student body in disciplinary areas which are traditionally male- or female-dominated;
- To establish structures which allow equal opportunity for all to advance in their career;
- To support all staff who have caring responsibilities and ensure that these responsibilities do not negatively affect their career progression;
- To recognise that there is a specific issue regarding women progressing to senior roles and to work to remove any actual or perceived barriers;
- To promote gender balance in the statutory decision-making committees, Governing Body and Academic Council, with no less than 40% membership of either gender.
Speaking at the launch, Minister Mary Mitchell O’Conner stated “The recent study by the HEA into the gender profiles of higher education institutions quantified the lack of gender balance across our higher education institutions, in particular at very senior levels. I am therefore very pleased to be able to announce the publication of this first Gender and Equality Statement on behalf of higher education institutions. This Statement is designed to encourage diversity and female representation throughout the sector. It will also drive initiatives as part of the Institutes’ applications for Athena SWAN awards. It represents a quantifiable aspiration within the technological sector to increase the number of females in leadership roles and to enhance the diversity of both the student and staff community.”
Enterprise Director at Vodafone Ireland and Chair of THEA Council of Presidents, Regina Moran, welcomed the publication, stating “This is a significant milestone in the evolution of our technological higher education sector, with an explicit acknowledgement that, although we have present and former females in Presidential roles and in leading positions across the sector, we need to do much more in order to ensure diverse proportional representation at senior level. We are committing to target the very grass roots of career-planning – at the access point to education and progression through levels of attainment – so that succession planning for senior roles will support gender balanced diversity.”
Dr Joseph Ryan, CEO, THEA stated “This is a most significant first step along the path to actively targeting even greater diversity across the technological higher education sector and a diversity that can realize gender balance within our institutions. We look forward to working with the Minister following the imminent publication of the report from the Gender Equality Taskforce to produce action plans and work programmes that support each of the six key objectives outlined in our statement. These work programmes and actions will also support the Institutes in their on-going work towards receiving Athena SWAN awards”.