Recruiters headhunting the new president of NUI Galway were specifically asked to ‘reach out’ to women academics in Ireland and abroad.
Members of the Governing Body of NUIG, “expressed a worry” that the competition to replace Dr James Browne, the incumbent “might not attract significant female interest”.
Perrett Laver, the recruitment specialist hired by NUIG to assist in its search for a new President, “had been requested to make a particular effort to reach out to female academics nationally and internationally,” according to An Rúnaí, Gearóid Ó Conluain.
However, the secretary said that, from what he had observed, a lack of interest from women in the post, “was not likely to be a problem.”
The concern about a lack of interest from female academics was raised at the Governing Body meeting of April 28, minutes of which were released under Freedom of Information (FOI).
The meeting heard that Perrett Laver was one of six consultancies that bid for the job, and it emerged from the process as “a clear winner”.
The company will work with a university selection committee to find Dr Browne’s successor and that committee was elected at the April meeting.
The university’s external equality advisers had been in touch with NUIG’s Vice President for Equality and Diversity and suggested that “consideration be given to adding a gender equality expert” to the selection committee.
The Governing Body decided against this, however, because “the appointment model for the post had already been agreed by members”.
“After some discussion and deliberation, it was decided not to add a gender expert to the selection committee to eschew any possible perception of a conflict of interest arising and to maintain the voting balance in the selection model already adopted,” the minutes record.
It was agreed that Mr Ó Conluain, “would explore the possibility of some or all of the external gender equality experts meeting with members of the selection committee to convey their views on the importance of evaluating candidate awareness and experiencing of gender equality during the competition assessment process.”
Dr Browne is due to retire from the position in early 2018. From Westmeath, he had served as registrar and deputy president of NUIG for seven years before becoming its 12th president in March, 2008 when he succeeded Iognáid Ó Muircheartaigh.
Dr Browne was at the helm during a massive overhaul of the city campus through a €400 million capital building programme, which began in 2006.
During his period in charge of the university, which has more than 17,000 students, and more than 2,400 staff, NUIG increased its rankings in international league tables.
In 2014, NUIG had to pay €70,000 in damages after the Equality Tribunal found it had discriminated against Dr Micheline Sheehy-Skeffington and denied her a promotion because she is a woman.
The gender equality scandal rumbles on, as the university is fighting through the courts other women lecturers, who claim to have been discriminated against in the same round of promotions as Dr Sheehy-Skeffington.