News, Views & Events

International Women's Day 2017

9 Mar 2017
President of UCC, Professor Patrick O'Shea

The president announces a new Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Unit at UCC. 


Today is International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate the achievements of women and to commit to action to accelerate gender equality.

Here in UCC, our Athena SWAN process has provided the framework for much of our recent work on gender equality, building on foundations laid by the FP7-funded GENOVATE project and supported by UCC’s Equality Committee. UCC’s three-year Athena SWAN action plan maps out ambitious targets for the next three years. I am pleased to share with you here key steps taken to date, and our progress so far.

A new Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Unit at UCC

First, in the spirit of International Women’s Day, I am very pleased to announce plans for a new Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Unit at UCC.


Led by a Director who will be based in the office of the Senior Vice President Academic & Registrar, the new Unit will provide a robust infrastructure for equality initiatives at UCC, lead on policy development and implementation, coordinate the provision of equality-related services and functions and promote equality across all of the University’s functions.


Equality, diversity and inclusion are core values, critical to the University’s mission as an educational institution. UCC’s new EDI Unit will help promote these values in practical, tangible ways that enrich the university community and support our work.

Athena SWAN: Progress to Date

We have improved supports for women employees who are pregnant or returning from maternity leave, and for working parents, and are phasing in -

  • Cover for maternity leave for administrative and support staff
  • Cover for research staff on maternity leave
  • A €5,000 grant for academic staff returning from maternity leave for teaching or research assistance.


In addition:

  • HR Director Barry O’Brien yesterday circulated information about new HR initiatives for managing maternity leave, including coaching on maternity transition and guidelines and coaching for managers.
  • UCC now offers car-pooling reserved spaces, or equivalent arrangements, to pregnant women from the 28th week of pregnancy, across all campus sites.


Work is underway in other key areas:

  • We have committed to achieving a minimum of 40% of both men and women on UCC’s strategic decision-making bodies. Based on a review of membership of its Committees, Academic Council has, to date, endorsed proposals for –
    • Colleges to maintain panels of qualified and experienced candidates, male and female, irrespective of grade, who are available to fill decision-making functions when called on by AC.
    • Exploring new mechanisms for identifying Committee Chairs, including considering new Deputy Chair roles, to improve gender balance and support succession planning.
    • A review of academic promotions schemes is underway; its terms of reference incorporate Athena SWAN action plan commitments to:
      • Gender balance on promotions boards (LPEB, PPB)
      • Mandatory gender equality training for promotions boards, Heads of Schools
      • Clearer guidelines for decision-makers on how to take into account periods of leave and part-time work arrangements, including maternity and other family related leave and career breaks
      • UCC is the site for one of four pilot initiatives being undertaken to implement the new statutory duty on all public bodies to promote equal treatment and human rights. This initiative is being undertaken with the support of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.
      • A draft gender recognition policy is close to completion, to support staff and students who are transitioning to a new gender identity.
      • UCC continues to participate in the GLEN Diversity Champions initiative to support LGBT inclusive workplaces and is committed to participating in the Workplace Equality Index awards in 2018.


For my own part, I will host UCC’s alumnae at an annual public symposium to reflect on achievements and challenges in improving equality on campus and beyond. Separately, a photographic exhibition highlighting the achievements of UCC alumnae is being planned for later this year.


In the spirit of celebration and action, I wish you the best for International Women’s Day.


Professor Patrick G. O’Shea



Professor Caroline Fennell

Senior Vice President Academic & Registrar

Athena SWAN

G01 EDI Unit,South Lodge,