Higher education institutions in Ireland have signed up to the Athena SWAN Charter to boost the number of women in senior academic and research roles across STEM subjects.

The Charter, run by the UK’s Equality Challenge Unit (ECU), will advance gender equality in Irish universities where only 19% of professors are women.

In Institutes of Technology women represent 45% of academic staff but make up just 29% of senior posts. In physical science, mathematics, ICT and engineering the gender balance drops further.

Only 19% of professors are women in Irish universities

The Athena SWAN Charter has six principles that the seven universities, 14 institutes of technology and the Royal College of Surgeons are adopting. They earn Bronze, Silver and Gold awards by continuously improving gender equality.

“Universities are losing out on female talent and this reflects how the STEM sector generally must remove barriers to attract women for the benefit of the wider economy,” says ECU equality charters adviser Sarah Fink.

An ECU report on the impact of the Charter in the UK reveals that 90% of institutions surveyed agree the scheme has impacted positively on gender issues.

Tom Boland, Chief Executive at Ireland’s Higher Education Authority, said he wants to see “real and substantial progress in addressing gender imbalance”.