Interview of the Month: Trinity Centre for Gender Equality and Leadership (09/2017)

Every month, for you, EPWS presents the characteristics and activities of one Member Association.

Read all the previous Interviews with our Members here

Our member for September is the Irish association TCGEL: Trinity Centre for Gender Equality and Leadership (formerly WiSER), based in Trinity College Dublin. TCGEL is an EPWS associate member.


For TCGEL, Professor Eileen Drew at Trinity College Dublin has agreed to answer the EPWS questionnaire.

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EPWS: If you wanted to describe TCGEL in one sentence, what would you say?

E.D.: The Trinity Centre for Gender Equality and Leadership (TCGEL) was established in 2017 to deliver the University’s strategic objectives to advance gender equality. Building on the work done by WiSER (Centre for Women in Science and Engineering Research, TCD) to recruit, retain, return and advance women in academic science, engineering and technology, TCGEL extends this remit to all disciplines and support areas across the university.

EPWS: What are the objectives of TCGEL?

E.D.: TCGEL’s mission is to develop and embed sustainable practices to advance gender equality in Trinity College Dublin to ensure a diverse, innovative and productive academic community of global significance.
Our vision is of an inclusive and innovative university community in which people of all genders participate at all levels, are enabled to reach their full potential, and are recognised equally for their diverse contributions.

EPWS: What is the history of TCGEL, in a few words?

E.D.: Trinity College Dublin has been home to WiSER (Centre for Women in Science & Engineering Research), the first (and still the only) dedicated Centre for women in STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine) in an Irish university, since 2006. The FP7-funded project INTEGER (Institutional Transformation for Effecting Gender Equality in Research) extended WiSER’s brief from ‘fixing the numbers’ (of women overall) and ‘fixing the women’ (through their personal and professional development) to also ‘fixing the institution’, through the development and implementation of Gender Action Plans to create sustainable transformational change.
The UK based Equality Challenge Unit established the Athena SWAN Charter in 2005 to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) employment in higher education and research. TCGEL (then WiSER) took an active role in extending the Athena SWAN Charter into Irish Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and incorporating the pursuit of Athena SWAN into the Strategic Plan for Trinity College Dublin.

Through TCGEL’s pioneering work in setting up a national Athena SWAN Committee (representing all Irish HEIs), the Higher Education Authority (HEA), Ireland’s funding body for the higher education sector, provided financial support for the extension of the Athena SWAN Charter to Irish Higher Education institutions in 2015. The HEA have now made achievement of the Athena SWAN award a requirement for future third level funding.
This year, WiSER has been relaunched as TCGEL, with an expanded remit to cover all disciplines and support areas across the university, no longer confined to STEMM disciplines.

EPWS: Could you explain the organization of your association?

E.D.: TCGEL pioneers innovative and inclusive actions to:
Act as a centre of excellence in the promotion of gender equality and leadership;
Redress gender imbalances at all levels;
Create sustainable structural and cultural change;
Enhance the careers of Trinity staff;
Develop and advise on best practices regarding gender equality;
Engage with international networks and projects to advance gender equality in academia globally.
The Centre is run by a Director, a Programme Manager and an Executive Officer and reports to the University’s Council and Board through the office of the Vice Provost.

EPWS: What are TCGEL’s recent achievements?

E.D.: TCGEL is the co-ordinating partner for a €2.2 million Horizon 2020 project SAGE (Systemic Action for Gender Equality), which kicked off in Trinity College in September 2016.

SAGE kick-off meeting

SAGE will devise and implement interventions to advance gender equality in seven European universities, and develop a proven model that can be implemented throughout the European research sector. SAGE seeks stronger action on gender equality in higher education and research. Gender equality has yet to be fully realised, and the European Commission recognises the structural barriers that impede progress, namely: unequal pay, absence of work/life balance, the persistence of harassment and discrimination, and the under-representation of women in decision-making.

Through the design and implementation of Gender Equality Plans (GEPs), the SAGE consortium will develop, refine and test a replicable model for gender equality for extension across EU higher education and research institutions.
A SAGE Charter of Principles for Gender Equality will be produced for adoption by research and higher education institutions across Europe to advance towards gender-balanced research. A SAGE toolkit, coupled with specially-designed measurement, will provide a workable self-assessment model for wider use. Delivered as a cohesive package for delivery throughout Europe, the innovative SAGE model will ultimately provide an exciting mechanism for wide-reaching systemic change.

SAGE partners are: Trinity Centre for Gender Equality (TCGEL), Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, acting as coordinator; Università degli Studi di Brescia, Italy; Kadir Has University, Turkey; Instituto Universitário De Lisboa, Portugal; Sciences Po Bordeaux, France; International University of Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Queen’s University Belfast, UK, acting as evaluator.

TCGEL (as WiSER) was an active partner in GENDER-NET (2013-16), a pilot transnational research policy initiative funded by the European Commission under the Science in Society work programme of the seventh Framework Programme (FP7), designed to address the common challenges still facing European research institutions in achieving gender equality in research and innovation. These challenges concern the persistent barriers and constraints to the recruitment, advancement and mobility of women in the European scientific system, the lack of women in decision-making, and the limited integration of the gender dimension in research programmes and content.

In November 2016, Trinity College Dublin joined the prestigious ranks of the League of European Research Universities (LERU). TCGEL’s Director, Professor Eileen Drew, is a member of LERU’s Gender Thematic Group.

In 2015 Trinity College was awarded an Athena SWAN Institutional Bronze award. Three Schools also received Bronze awards: Chemistry, Natural Sciences and Physics.

Athena SWAN award reception


EPWS: What is your agenda for the coming months?

E.D.: TCGEL will be formally launched on 11 October 2017, by the Chancellor of Trinity College Dublin, Professor Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland.

The SAGE Horizon 2020 Project partners will be meeting on 18-19th September 2017 in Kadir Has University Istanbul, where institutional Gender Equality Plans will be presented and discussed. Guest speaker Prof. Dr. Gulsun Saglamer, former rector of Istanbul Technical University, will address issues relating to the implementation of Gender Equality Plans, drawing upon her experience with the FP7 Project FESTA.

In September 2017 Professor Eileen Drew will deliver a keynote address entitled ‘Turning gaps into GEPs (Gender Equality Plans): Lessons for Equality and Diversity from Trinity College Dublin‘ at the 26th European Access Network (EAN) Conference at the University of Giessen, Germany, the theme of which is: Sharing stories of empowerment: Creating new strategies for diversity and inclusion in higher education, Wednesday 20th – Friday 22nd September 2017.

TCGEL will be represented at the TRIGGER (FP7) project’s final conference, entitled “Triggering Gender in Science”, to present the final results of the project, the Guidelines, and open a public debate on new policies and instruments to promote structural changes in order to achieve gender equality in science. The Conference will take place in Brussels on November 28-29 2017.

EPWS: Are you currently collaborating with other EPWS members?

Not yet.

EPWS: What do you expect from EPWS? In what ways can it help you develop your action?

E.D.: TCGEL continues to welcome the work done by, and support from, EPWS and would like to actively work in tandem in disseminating the work of SAGE, the LERU Gender Thematic Group and proposed TCGEL conferences and other events.

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