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SDG 5 Gender Equality

In February 2019, two UL initiatives aimed at encouraging and supporting women in STEM education were awarded funding by Science Foundation Ireland. Minister for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, John Halligan TD, announced a national investment of €3.6 million through Science Foundation Ireland’s Discover Programme, to fund projects dedicated to educating and engaging the public in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).  UL’s projects include:

1. SOPHia

Science Outreach to Promote Physics to Female Students (UL) - a project that aims to encourage female students to take up physics as a Leaving Certificate Subject.

2. STEMChAT

Women as catalysts for change in STEM education (UL) – looks at the recruitment of female undergraduate STEM Champions and industry mentors who will facilitate informal workshops with school students and parents, in disadvantaged areas.

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In May 2019, UL President Emeritus Dr Des Fitzgerald announced that University of Limerick had reached an expanded charter Bronze Athena SWAN award. He said: “I am delighted to announce that University of Limerick has been awarded a Bronze Athena SWAN award to the expanded charter. “The Athena SWAN Steering Committee (ASSC), made the decision to apply for the Athena SWAN expanded charter, introduced in Ireland in November 2017, rather than renewing to the AS STEMM standard, which primarily focuses on the careers of women in STEMM. We are the first institution to upgrade our existing award to the expanded charter and the second university with NUI Maynooth to be awarded the expanded charter. This award recognises work undertaken to address gender equality more broadly, in arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law (AHSSBL), and in professional and support roles, and for trans staff and students. Athena SWAN therefore is not just about one gender but promotes equality and diversity across all disciplines. We are the best performing HE institute in Ireland regarding female representation at full professor level, rising from 8% in 2007 to 32% in 2018 – eight points above the national average.”

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In March 2019, University of Limerick hosted its 11th Annual International Women’s Day Conference. The conference was supported by Johnson & Johnson, Northern Trust, Bank of Ireland, and Dell EMC and was attended by hundreds of people from the business and education community. The keynote speaker was cervical cancer activist Dr Vicky Phelan, and the conference was chaired by Catherine Duffy, CEO of Northern Trust, Limerick. The event followed the International Women’s Day theme of #BalanceforBetter and tackled many of the issues facing women in the workforce and in society in general.

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In July 2019, Ireland’s first ‘Rainbow Housing’ initiative for students who live on campus was launched at University of Limerick. Rainbow housing is for students who wish to live together in a house/apartment that supports the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, and allied community at UL. Residents of rainbow housing create and maintain a living space that is affirming to all sexual and gender identities. UL is the first university in Ireland and the second across the UK and Ireland to provide rainbow housing for its students living on campus. Organisations that have pledged to support the initiative include Limerick Pride and GOSHH (Gender, Orientation, Sexual Health, HIV) Limerick. Dr Amanda Haynes, Co-director of UL’s Hate and Hostility Research Group, said: “UL will be enriched by the presence on campus of a resource that encourages all of our LGBT students and allies to be active, critical, political, disruptive and constructive contributors to our collective campus life.

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In January 2019, 120 transition-year students from over 30 second-level schools in Limerick, Cork, and surrounding counties attended female-only programmes the University of Limerick (UL) and at Cork Institute of Technology (CIT). I Wish is an initiative to inspire, encourage and motivate young female students to pursue careers in STEM. Robots, investigating cancer, designing aeroplane parts and computer games are just a sample of the activities that were on offer during the campus weeks at Limerick and Cork. Mary Moloney who, along with Norma Welch, coordinated the highly successful CIT Campus programme over the past 3 years said: “this is the biggest year yet with over 120 students from across Munster engaging with the sold-out programmes at CIT and UL, these programmes encourage young girls to open their eyes and see the opportunities out there and to keep doors open until they are ready to make an informed choice about what they want to do in the future.”  

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In November 2019, UL launched an Equality and Human Rights (EHR) Strategy. This details objectives, actions and expected outcomes for 13 grounds of Equality and Human Rights under 10 themes: Governance, Leadership, Staff Experience, Educational Experience, Research Experience, Campus Development, Events, Clubs and Societies, Public Relations, Marketing and Communications, Technology, Procurement and Budgeting.

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