The Minister for Higher Education attended the World Government Summit in the United Arab Emirates last week to discuss, among other topics, solutions to gender inequality in higher education establishments.
Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor arrived in Dubai last week to participate in the Advanced Skills Global Policy Platform on February 10th and 11th as part of the World Government Summit, alongside other Minsters for Higher Education, global education institutions and leading private CEOs.
There she met her UAE counterpart, His Excellency Dr Ahmed Belhoul Al-Falasi, Minister of State for Higher Education and Advanced Skills.
Mitchell O’Connor attended the Global Gender Circle, an initiative created by the UAE to try and rectify the gender gap in women’s economic contribution. In her talks, she outlined previous Irish initiatives in “rectifying the gender imbalance at the top level in our higher education institutes” such as the Gender Action Plan and Senior Academic Initiative.
The Gender Action Plan was an accumulation of research and setting up of a task force to tackle gender inequality in Irish third level institutes. The Senior Academic Initiative was set up to tackle gender inequality among employment in higher education institutes nationwide. As part of this three-year plan, 45 new and additional female-specific senior academic positions were created in this sector.
Mitchell O’Connor addressed the steps taken so far with an audience of international leaders. She also signed a memorandum of understanding on how both Ministries can work together on addressing the global skills challenge with the UAE Minister of State for Higher Education and Advanced Skills.
In the UAE, 70 per cent of graduates are female and some 40 per cent of employees in Higher Education are women. A 2017 survey by the Dubai Statistics Centre showed the economic participation rate was at 53.6 per cent.
In 2017, research in Ireland showed that in the university sector some 51 per cent of lecturers were female, while only 24 per cent of professors were female. However, reports showed that it could take 20 years to “achieve the goal of a minimum of 40 per cent female representation at professor level” in Ireland.
The aim of the summit was to discuss how changes due to technological advancement in the workplace can still benefit society and the people. Another change in the workplace that is required and must be adapted to is gender equality, an area Minister Mitchell O’Connor hopes Ireland to be “a world-leading country” in.
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