Ireland is doing well on gender equality; progress is being made in key areas. The 2021 gender equality index from the European Institute for Gender Equality ranked Ireland seventh out of 27 EU member states. But while Irish women have made great progress in the Irish board room with nearly 30 per cent of board members are women, we still have a gender pay gap of 14.4% despite more women than men graduating university. Only 22 per cent of our TDS and 24 per cent of local councillors are women; and as we have seen recently, all too tragically, violence against women and girls remains an urgent and serious issue in this country.
Gender Inequality in the Workplace
Inequality in the workplace takes many forms — access to the labour market, unequal pay, disparity in promotions, sexual harassment, and for women of colour, racism. Often, it presents itself in more nuanced ways, like fewer opportunities for women who are mothers to progress and a higher incidence of burnout in women.
Women in the labour market can encounter both structural barriers; a lack of childcare, working days that are not family friendly; male dominated hierarchies or attitudinal barriers: stereotyping, misogyny sexism and sexual harassment. Gender inequality exists in every sector of the Irish labour market. In the civil service 72 per cent of secretary generals are men and 28 per cent are women; at clerical officer level however, 71 per cent of employees are women and 29 per cent are men.
'Shecession' and the Impact of COVID
The World Economic Forum notes the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a global 'Shecession' which:
At home, Ibec carried out a survey in March 2021 to look at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women. In 20 per cent of the survey responses returned, organisations noted that there had been a change in the position of women in their organisations in the preceding 12 months. These included increased pressure and stress for women, childcare responsibilities, and requests from women for worktime flexibility to accommodate childcare and/or eldercare. Nearly one in two organisations (48 per cent) noted that requests for flexible work came more often from women than men. The last two years of the COVID-19 pandemic has increased pre-existing inequalities and exposed vulnerabilities in our social, political and economic systems.
Gender Pay Gap Reporting
The gender pay gap is the difference in the average hourly wage of men and women across a workforce. A gender pay gap can occur when there are not enough women in senior positions in organisations or there are more women in lower paid roles than men in an organisation.
This year the government legislated for gender pay gap reporting. Irish organisations with 250 employee or more will now have to undertake a gender pay audit, publish their gender pay gap, the reasons for it and a plan to address it.
Gender pay gap reporting is one part of a much-needed wider strategy to address participation rates of women and employment gaps between genders. It will not on its own identify or solve the many structural, cultural and policy causes for these differences that are often 'baked into the system,' but it is one indicator as to how women are faring in the workplace.
'Equality Budgeting' involves assessing the impact of budgetary information across a range of areas such as education, health or income for example, and analysing how outcomes differ across gender, age, ethnicity and other characteristics. The Irish government is committed to this process and all government departments are participating in it by reviewing their budgetary information with an equality lens, including at Publicjobs.ie.
So, this International Women's Day, we all need to think about how we can help #brekthebias and support women and girls in our society to achieve their full potential.