Micheline Sheehy Skeffington and Rose Foley have released a book about their gender equality campaign against the University of Galway.
The campaign began in 2014 when Micheline successfully won an Equality Tribunal case against the University of Galway.
The case was taken after Micheline was passed over for promotion on multiple occasions, despite being deemed suitable and meeting the criteria.
After being denied the promotion Micheline sought action against the University over the lack of female promotions to senior lecturer positions.
She brought the case to the Equality Tribunal in 2013, and in 2014 was rewarded with a win, during which time she had been passed over for promotion in another instance in the University.
Following Micheline’s tribunal win, she was awarded €70,000, which she gave away to the other five women who had also been passed over for promotion.
Speaking on the donation, Micheline said, “it put down a marker and it did obviously give the women, a bit of a boost, but it’s their courage that went forward. So, there was from then on that we thought, well, we’ve got to support them.”
Rose Foley, Micheline’s co-author of the book and who also took part in the campaign, described creating a Change.org petition to support the five women, “that petition, we saw more than 800 signatures in just a few days and people wrote very impassioned responses about discrimination that they had faced and they were behind these other five women who should have been promoted and so that from that the campaign really grew.”
Micheline said about students’ reactions to the campaign at the time, “they really felt that the students were behind what this is all about. It wasn’t just an academic thing. It very much affected them. And female students, probably more so because it resonates right down.”
Speaking on the book, Rose said “We started writing the book in 2018. This was just months before the women finally were promoted so that campaign took four years from 2014 to 2018.
“Writing this book is the right thing to do. It’s to document that injustice and the fight against it, and it’s written down in black and white from the viewpoint and perspective of all the people in the campaign, and I think that’s important. It’s the women’s voices and men’s voices who were fighting this and standing up to the system and winning and that’s the exceptional thing.
“And I like to say that, you know, there’s a statistic that as even as late as 2019, there had never been a female president of a university in Ireland. Now there are seven of the 12 universities led by women, and that’s due to this campaign gender equality. It really put it on the minds of all the universities in in Ireland, not just Galway.”
Micheline commented on the Athena Swan award for gender equality established by the Higher Education Authority (HEA), “I think that’s something we should monitor and see are the HEA going to continue complying with this? Are they keeping publishing statistics showing where the percentage of women are in the universities? Because at the moment they’re not so accessible.”
A spokesperson for the University of Galway said: “University of Galway has made considerable progress on gender equality, including receiving an Athena Swan Bronze award in recognition of our initiatives and improvements.
“For example, we were the first University to appoint a Vice-President for Equality, Diversity, Inclusion; our School of Engineering became the first faculty of its kind in Ireland to achieve an Athena Swan Silver award last year, and secondly the University was awarded a special €1 million government fund in 2021 to drive strategy and improvements in equality, diversity and inclusion in direct recognition of our advancements in gender equality.
“The representation of women in senior academic roles has also improved significantly, with the proportion of female staff holding the role of senior lecturer increasing from 33% in 2016/17 to 47% in 2020/21; and the proportion of female staff holding the role of personal professor increasing from 16% to 28% over the same period.
“Our University community commends all those who contributed and contribute every day to our progress on this journey. We are a different place, and a better place because of it.”
The book is available in the University of Galway bookshop, as well as most bookshops in Galway and around the country. It’s also available online and on the campaign website Micheline’s Three Conditions.