The Cathaoirleach of Fórsa’s Education division, Gina O’Brien, met with the Higher Education Authority (HEA) yesterday (Monday 5th February) to discuss a new training proposal designed by the union to address the lack of training opportunities for administrative staff working in higher education.
Gina completed the proposal following her participation in a workshop of the gender equality taskforce for higher education in January.
Gina explained: “The national review into gender inequality in the higher education sector in 2016 made only one or two recommendations that could be applied to administrative staff. The most noticeable gap was the lack of training opportunities for women working in this area. This needs to be addressed.
“The taskforce event in January brought together a very good mix of stakeholders and there was good quality discussion and ideas, but I remained concerned that there was a lack of focus on administrative staff in higher education.
“Fórsa’s submission to the gender taskforce is a training proposal designed to address this deficit. When we outlined the content of the proposal, I was invited to meet with the HEA. That meeting took place yesterday.”
Gina said the proposals were very well received at yesterday's meeting. "They've asked if they could take a number of our measures on board for implementation. It was a very positive engagement."
The gender equality taskforce for higher education was established by junior minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor towards the end of last year. Fórsa represents some 12,000 education workers, including non-teaching staff in the institutes of technology and education and training boards.
The establishment of the task force followed the findings of a national review into gender inequality in the higher education sector, which was conducted by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) and published in 2016. The report concluded that women were significantly under-represented at senior levels in higher education establishments, and said gender inequality is a serious issue in the sector.
The report found that, in 2015, 81% of professional positions were held by men and, while women represented 62% of non-academic staff, men represented 72% of the highest paid non-academic staff.
The taskforce aims to take a two-pronged approach to tackle the issue of gender inequality. It will prepare a three-year action plan in consultation with stakeholders. It will also oversee a national review of recruitment and promotion policies now in place.
Related: Fórsa welcomes education gender taskforce