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Women-only professorships 'not discriminating against men', says Mitchell O'Connor

20 female-only professorships are expected to be in place by September this year.

Mary Mitchell O'Connor in March 2019.
Mary Mitchell O'Connor in March 2019.
Image: PA Archive/PA Images

THE CREATION OF female-only professorships in Irish third-level institutions is “not discriminating against men”, the Minister of State for Higher Education has said. 

45 female-only additional professor positions were announced by Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor in November 2018.

Research by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) showed that in 2017, 51% of lecturers were female, while only 24% of professor posts were filled by women. 

20 female-only professorships are expected to be in place by September this year. 

Speaking on RTÉ Radio 1 show This Week earlier today, the minister of state said the creation of these jobs will help to “ensure that women now can get through that glass ceiling”. 

“No, I’m not discriminating against men,” she said. 

“We have a problem in our higher education institutions. Women are being discriminated against. There’s inequality and women are not being promoted as academics to the highest level.”

The positions will be in place across 12 academic institutions.  

In 2020, a total of 70 professor positions will be advertised in third-level institusions, with 20 for female-only applicants. The extra positions will primarily be in STEM subjects. 

Mitchell O’Connor responded to a piece in the Irish Independent by Professor Patricia Casey in November 2018, which said women who held these posts “will be secretly mocked as not being real professors but only in post through favouritism”. 

“I would refute that. We know, for example, that our girls are scoring very highly in maths and chemistry and physics in their Leaving Certificate. They’re then going into university… they are actually getting better results,” said Mitchell O’Connor. 

The minister of state said people who identify as female “who have transitioned” will be allowed to apply for the extra positions

The first 20 posts will be put in place this September, followed by a review of the process and a further round of positions put forward next year.  

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