Last week, the Irish Minister for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, announced her intention to create female-only Professorships in Irish Universities. 45 such positions will be created over the next 3 years, specifically in the science and technology sectors. At current remuneration and pension rates this display of virtue signalling will cost the Irish taxpayers the sum of approximately 6 million euro in a few short years . Prior to this, Ms. Mitchell O’Connor’s greatest renown lay in foolishly driving her car down a set of steps outside the Parliament buildings on her first day in office.
The initiative is part of a wider set of measures aimed at speeding up the achievement of gender balance in the work place. Examples of affirmative or positive action will include withdrawal of University funding and fines for not achieving gender balance in the workplace, and compelled gender balance in any pool of candidates for any job. The action will be extended to other areas of public service employment thereafter. The Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) is fully supportive of his Minister and says, ”We can’t just wait for things to change over time. We need accelerators.”
At present 51% of all lecturers in Irish Universities are female, though only 28% of Professors are women. In the top University – Trinity College – 59% of lecturers are female. 55% of all undergraduate students are female. One might note that to date applications for professorships have attracted 30% female candidates, so women are being represented almost exactly in accordance with the level of interest thus far shown by them in these positions. Already there are abundant female-specific research funding programs in existence, especially in areas still deemed to be suffering from gender imbalance. The preponderance of male professors is expected to disappear naturally within 10 to 20 years as a result of females comprising the majority of participants in academia, but this policy aims to quicken the process.
Though one might presume such a move to be illegal as it is obviously discriminatory, it is likely to be upheld at the European Court. Positive Action such as this, that is deemed necessary to encourage participation from under-represented groups, has been part of EU legislation and case law since the early 1990s. Employment legislation in Ireland, specifically the Employment Equality Act of 1998, most likely enables such actions. There will undoubtedly be legal challenges, however, as this kind of affirmation of equality of outcome spreads.
Legislative actions like this, which amount to direct political manipulation, undermine the autonomy of academic institutions. They encourage the erroneous social justice doctrine regarding the gender pay gap, a tenet that has been demolished comprehensively. Women in general value flexibility in their careers over income growth, and it is this that largely accounts for any so-called gap in pay. Women choose to spend more time with family, thus their careers often take a back seat – this makes the overall figures look bad, but ignores the reality.
This kind of manoeuvre denies women the agency of their own minds, desires, ambitions. Not only does it overtly discriminate against men, but it hounds the female. Being female is akin to being disabled under such policies.
It is true that the further up the career chain one goes, women disappear, but this has most likely been by choice or self-selection for the majority. These choices are made at all levels, from infancy onwards. Studies show that girl babies show more interest in faces on average, and boy babies show more interest in things on average. In free settings, where there is no attempt at social conditioning, children will choose what are nowadays despised as gender-specific toys. Girls, even academically gifted girls, choose freely to go into the soft sciences and humanities sectors and boy’s choices on average lean towards the hard sciences. This is not for lack of equality of opportunity, which thankfully has been present in most modern societies for some time now. In the most gender equal societies the differences between the choices made by the sexes magnify – females freely choose more stereotypical interests. This is reflective of very real differences between the sexes, differences which for many reasons appear to be thoroughly unpalatable to those who shape social policy.
Female-only professorships will undermine the academic achievements of women, casting a veil of doubt over their capability. It is infantilising, condescending, patronising, and the fact that this measure has been so widely welcomed by women’s groups and educational institutes is frankly demoralising. Nowhere in the present action plan, for example, is there any consideration of the gender imbalance towards female primary school teachers, nor for that matter the preponderance of males employed in public sanitation roles. The shortage of women block layers (99.5% male) or refuse collectors (96% male) does not seem to cause any alarm in political places. No consideration is given to the studies that are showing young boys falling behind in education. Most solicitors in Ireland are now female, most new doctors too – there is simply not a bias against women entering such professions as they choose and performing to whatever level they choose. Policies like these are based on lies and spin.
These kind of policies ascribe powers to the state which vastly exceed their jurisdiction. The state becomes the All-Powerful Mother and Father, declaring it will assuage all suffering. A lack of suffering results in a lack of life experience, effectively a coddling from the cradle to the grave. What initially appears to be beneficent to some, hides mortal danger. The state in loco parentis can become despotic, controlling, peevish, robbing its children of their self-determination, and self-responsibility. The hand that gives may someday be the hand that throttles your helpless throat.
Merit in the older days took a back seat to corrupted inheritance as the elites ascended societal strata; now merit falls by the sword of affirmative action and the headlong ideological drive towards equality of outcome. In the future, one may wonder if the very best engineers have fixed the airplane in which one is flying, if the best surgeon possible is performing the operation on one’s brain, if the very best teachers available are the ones charged with preserving, advancing and disseminating the sum of human knowledge, and if one should ever feel some doubt on these scores, then the blame can be laid firmly at the feet of such short-sighted, ideological measures which denied access to advancement by the most objectively meritorious person for the job in order to affirm what felt better at the time.
Affirmative action, however, may sow the seeds of its own demise. In Ireland, for example, we are one of the earliest countries to have quietly enacted self -declaration for gender identity, requiring no further medical testimony or treatment, and thus, ironically, a male who has done no more than declare himself to be a female would be in a perfectly legitimate position to apply for one of these female-only roles. Thus the contradictions inherent in the ideology will weaken the structure from within.
On a final note, Mary Mitchell O’ Connor was promoted to her role as Minister for Higher Education as a direct result of a female affirmative cabinet gender quota in Irish politics. By law, any political parties state funding may be cut in half if at least 30% of the candidates they field for election are not female. Thus she is merely keeping faith with the very ideology that spawned her.