The Government is to create 45 women-only senior academic positions in Higher Education Institutions, in an attempt to address ongoing gender inequality in the sector. 

Fifteen posts will be created every year for the next three years in areas where there is a demonstrated need for intervention on equality grounds. 

It is hoped the first positions will be advertised by September of next year. 

Details of how the institutions can apply to have promotional positions created under the scheme are not yet available. 

The programme will cost €9.2 million over the next three years. 

The announcement was made this morning by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O'Connor.

Ms Mitchell O'Connor said the initiative would bring female excellence to the fore and that the plan had been subjected to "vigorous legal assessment" to ensure that it was in keeping with Irish equality legislation. 

She said she wanted women to be able to secure a job by being the right person, not the wrong gender.

Similar initiatives are in place in universities and institutions in Germany, The Netherlands and Australia. 

The minister said that she wanted to see women holding 40% of professorships by 2024 and there is persuasive evidence that this target was possible, where an institution's leadership was committed to change.

Other measures announced today include the linking of State funding to the third level institutions on their delivering on gender equality. 

Mr Varadkar and Ms Mitchell O'Connor launched the Gender Action Plan at the National Gallery in the presence of 'Fearless Girl', a statue of a young girl symbolising female leadership, which on loan to the gallery from its home in New York's financial district.