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'F' Rated App for Women in Academia

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DateWednesday, May 11, 2016

'F' Rated App for Women in Academia

FESTA Strategic Career Manager Developed University of Limerick Designed to Shatter the Glass Ceiling in Global Academia


160511_IrishDev_LERO_University_of_Limerick_Festa.jpgThe FESTA Strategic Career Manager, a new software application designed to help break the glass ceiling in academia, will be formally launched at the University of Limerick (UL) tomorrow.


Developed by Lero Researchers from the university and six international universities, FESTA (Female Empowerment in Science & Technology Academia) has been produced as part of an EU funded gender equality project with funding of €4.3m of which €730,000 was allocated to UL.


Following detailed research of the career paths of over 100 female and male academics across Ireland, Denmark, Bulgaria and Turkey, FESTA research identified 39 potential barriers to gender equality in academia.



According to Professor Ita Richardson, Lero researcher at UL, there is clearly a serious gender equality issue which has been recognised by the EU. She said; "Less than 20% of professors in Ireland are female and less than 21% in Europe. There has been a serious historic gender bias across science not just in terms of promotion but even in the development of technology itself," continues Professor Richardson. "For example, seatbelts were originally designed for male bodies not female. Research into heart attack symptoms were male focussed not female."



Professor Pat O'Connor, who led the FESTA project in UL, said: "The FESTA Strategic Career Manager will be available globally and it will be particularly important in supporting women at the critical early stages of their careers.

It's significant that the University of Limerick was selected a FESTA partner as 31% of those at professorial level in UL are women, compared to the national average of 19%."


She added; "The programme complements the work of Athena SWAN for which UL received a Bronze Award in 2015. This charter helps to combat the under representation of women and to advance the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM) roles within the higher education and research sectors."



Dr Clare O'Hagan, FESTA Project Manager, led the development of workshops and training programmes which, combined with the software application, are designed to assist female academics progress their careers and break through the academic 'glass ceiling'. "The training modules cover a range of career related issues. These range from developing a publication strategy and academic networking to enhancing their visibility, honing their negotiation skills and leveraging family support. The modules have been developed with input from a range of disciplines including science, engineering, sociology, gender studies, HR and behavioural science."



John Noll, the primary software developer of the FESTA application, explains that a unique feature of the FESTA advisor is that the user does not need to be a 'professional knowledge engineer' to create or add to the knowledge base. He said; "The knowledge is contained in a set of simple "patterns" which are just semi-structured wiki pages that anyone can create using a template.


The program was implemented on top of the Gitit wiki platform. I added an inference engine written in Prolog, and infrastructure for creating and managing the FESTA knowledge base written in Haskell. It runs on an Ubuntu Linux server hosted at Lero."



Professor RIchardson added: "We will be seeking funding to commercialise the FESTA Strategic Career Manager as this software application has huge potential for female academics across the globe."





Who Is Professor Ita Richardson


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