Fórsa welcomes education gender taskforce
by Roisin McKane
Fórsa has welcomed the establishment of a gender equality taskforce for higher education, which was announced by junior minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor towards the end of last year. The union represents some 12,000 education workers, predominantly women in lower-paid roles including special needs assistants, clerical staff, school secretaries and early years professionals.
The launch follows on from 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.
While there are currently three female presidents of institutes of technology, there has never been a female university president in the Republic of Ireland.
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. And it will oversee a national review of recruitment and promotion policies now in place.
Fórsa will be involved in the consultation, and the union has been invited to participate in a stakeholder event later in January 2018. This is significant as the union was excluded from the HEA review – and subsequently received an apology from the then-chief executive.
The 2018 budget included a provision of €500,000 to support the taskforce and greater gender equality in the sector.
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