Twenty new women-only professor posts have been approved at Irish third-level institutions.
The move is aimed at accelerating progress in achieving gender balance at the senior academic level.
Minister of State with special responsibility for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O'Connor, has described the move as "game changing" for Irish academia.
"This intervention will ensure a swifter gender re-balance at the highest levels in 12 Higher Education Institutions", she says.
The posts were approved by an expert international assessment panel, chaired by Professor Lesley Yellowlees of Edinburgh University.
Recruitment will now begin by the relevant institutions.
The Department of Education says the recruitment process will take place "to the highest standards of assessment, evaluation and rigour consistent with the seniority of the professorial-level posts to ensure the quality and excellence of the appointments made in due course."
Minister O'Connor said: "This is a great start to 2020 and is truly a game-changing moment in Irish academia.
"I am incredibly proud that this intervention will ensure a swifter gender re-balance, addressing the current-representation of women at the highest levels of our institutions.
"I am delighted to be able to announce that 12 of our institutions have been successful under SALI [Senior Academic Leadership Initiative].
"I was truly inspired to see the calibre and ambition of the 20 successful posts that are being approved."
"We know that the excellence of our female academics and their vast contribution to research and education has not yet resulted in an appropriate level of representation of women at the highest levels.
"This initiative is supporting higher education institutions that are already taking proactive steps to address gender imbalance to take a leap forward in this area, always with 'excellence' at the heart of recruitment and promotion policies."
Some 76% of professors in Irish universities are male, while 51% of lecturers are women.
Minister O'Connor told Newstalk Breakfast the move is legally sound.
"At present, there is an institutional bias in promoting female academics - so I'm addressing this this morning."
"There is discrimination - but it's discrimination and equality of women in the higher education institutions.
"It's not just numbers that we're touting out... I have the Attorney-General's robust advice on this and we're also compliant with EU guidelines".
"So maybe we will see now in our lifetime that there will be gender equality in our higher education institutions - because it is an absolute fact that that is not the case as we stand".
Main image: Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O'Connor at the launch of the Friends of the Earth Solar Schools competition in November 2019 | Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland