IT Carlow Postgraduate Student Joins Minister for Launch of Senior Academic Leadership Initiative


IT Carlow Postgraduate Student Joins Minister for Launch of Senior Academic Leadership InitiativeAn IT Carlow postgraduate student played a central role in the Senior Academic Leadership Initiative (SALI) launched last Friday at which she shared the stage with the Minister of State with Special responsibility for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD.

Charlene Somers, who recently completed her Masters at Institute of Technology Carlow Wexford campus, was invited by the Minister to speak at the SALI launch that aims to accelerate gender balance objectives at senior academic leadership levels in Irish higher education institutions. The event took place at the Dept. of Education and Skills in front of leading academics and members of the media.

Charlene was one of three postgraduates – and the only representative from the IoT sector – invited to share their educational journey and discuss their aspirations to stay in academia and work towards lecturing or a career within higher education.

Charlene returned to college as a mature student and graduated from Institute of Technology Carlow Wexford Campus with an honours degree in Applied Social Studies. In her final year, she applied for and received the President’s Fellowship Masters that funded her two-year Masters by Research in Palliative Care, which she is just completing.  Her goal is to continue in higher education and lecture.

Speaking after the event, Charlene - who is from Our Lady’s Island, Wexford - said, “It was a fantastic experience, one I won’t forget. I really enjoyed telling my academic story at the event and being part of this drive to ensure there are more women represented at senior level in higher education. I am grateful to IT Carlow for the opportunities I have been given, such as the financial and academic support that allowed me to undertake and complete my Masters”.

Minister Mitchell O’Connor commented, “We know that the excellence of our female academics and their vast contribution to research and education has not yet resulted in an appropriate level of representation of women at the highest levels. This SALI initiative will support higher education institutions that are already taking proactive steps to address gender imbalance to take a leap forward in this area, always with excellence remaining at the heart of recruitment and promotion policies.

The 2018 Report on Higher Education Institutional Staff Profiles by Gender shows that, while in the university sector some 51% of lecturers were female, only 24% of professors were female. In the institute of technology (IoT) sector, some 45% of lecturers are female, but only 36% senior lecturer positions are held by females.

Analysis carried out by the 2018 Gender Taskforce on the estimated rate of change suggested that with the continuation of current recruitment and promotion practices, it could take up to 20 years to achieve an average of 40% females at professor level in the university sector. 

The taskforce recommended that new and additional gender-specific posts, at appropriate levels, as well as other positive action measures, where they would be a proportionate and an effective means to achieve rapid and sustainable change, should be considered.

Speaking about the launch, Dr Joseph Ryan, Chief Executive of Technological Higher Education Association (THEA), the advocacy and representative body for the technological higher education sector in Ireland stated: “We are particularly pleased to have introduced IT Carlow student Charlene Somers to the Minister’s event. Charlene is a perfect example of the pipeline of talent that we wish to embed in our institutions. She represents an example of a more inclusive future, leading by example through her achievements, the quality that she displays in her work and her leadership aspirations. We wish Charlene well in her career.”

CAPTION: Charlene Somers (forefront) with the Minister of State with Special responsibility for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD launching the Senior Academic Leadership Initiative (SALI) at the Dept of Education and Skills last Friday