Women still await senior academic roles

OLIVIA KELLEHER

THE APPOINTMENT of the first female professor at an Irish university just over 100 years ago was a significant achievement – but in the years that followed far fewer women than anticipated took up senior academic posts, a conference at University College Cork (UCC) heard over the weekend.

In 1910, when Mary Ryan was appointed to the professorship of romance languages at UCC, thereby becoming the first woman professor in these islands, women had to wait another eight years before gaining even limited voting rights in this country.

Prof Grace Neville, vice-president for teaching and learning at UCC, said it would be gratifying to be able to say Ryan’s appointment was the beginning of a trend – that universities across the globe would by now be appointing women professors in such numbers as to make the appointment of any one of them quite unremarkable. However, she said, the appointment of women had not happened – in universities, in business or in public life.

Prof Neville told a Mary Ryan Symposium in Cork on Saturday that in public life the story was no different: the percentage of women in the Dáil had plateaued at 13 per cent.

Ireland ranks 59th out of 120 countries when it comes to parliamentary representation by women, lower than the US, European and Asian average, and on a par with sub-Saharan Africa.

Prof Pat O’Connor of the department of sociology at the University of Limerick, said it was worth noting the differential between men’s and women’s chances of promotion to professorial level in Ireland was one of the worst in Europe, with EU research showing men in Ireland were at least five times more likely than women to obtain a full professorship.

The Irish Times – Monday, January 24, 2011

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