University of Limerick has welcomed the report of the Government Gender Equality Taskforce in tackling the area of gender equality in higher education institutions.
UL has long been a leader across Irish higher education institutions with the highest percentage of female professors of any HEI at 33% and as one of the two first institutions in Ireland to be granted Athena Swan Bronze award in 2015 for advancing gender equality.
Since then five individual UL departments have also been awarded Athena Swan awards including the Department of Biological Science, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, PESS - Department of Physical Education and Sports Science; Physics Department and the School of Education (first School of Education to receive the award). The Institution will submit a renewal application in November 2018 to the expanded Athena SWAN Charter. The expanded AS Charter moves beyond just the careers of women in STEMM to addressing gender equality across all disciplines and including professional and support staff. Five further Schools/Departments will also submit in November 2018.
The senior Leadership at UL represents significant gender equality with eight out of twelve female members of the Executive Committee, for the second time in its history UL has a female Chancellor and both of UL’s two Vice Presidents are female. Four of UL’s six Deans are women, 41% of Heads of Department are women and 53% of UL’s Assistant Deans are women.
In addition, 60% of UL’s Governing Authority sub committees are chaired by women.
UL President Dr Des Fitzgerald appointed a Special Advisor on Gender and Equality in 2017. In the last three years almost €1million has been provided in research grants to support academic staff across all faculties in re-establishing their independent research careers, on return from extended leave (20 weeks or more) for reasons connected to caring - such as adoption leave, additional paternity leave, maternity leave, or leave to care for a dependent. The Research Grants, which 32 female academic staff have availed of provided additional support to minimise the impact of extended leave on research activities providing 6 months protected research time on return from carers’ leave.
President Dr. Des Fitzgerald said in response to the launch ‘I am delighted that after years of UL and other third level institutions working on gender equality, the Government has recognised that this important work needs to be resourced. The new funding will help catalyse the very active programme on gender equality in UL. I want to thank the members of the Athena Swan Steering Committee and the large body of activists working on individual submissions by Schools and Departments for their tireless efforts in the drive toward gender equality. A lot has been achieved but there is a way to go yet’.