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Leo Varadkar speaking at today's Joint Committee on Gender Equality.
Gender Identity

Government 'open' to including non-binary option in the next census form

The Tánaiste said it is ‘definitely something the government is open to’.

TÁNAISTE LEO VARADKAR says the government is “open” to including a non-binary option in the next census form.

Speaking at today’s Joint Committee on Gender Equality, Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan noted that there were “a number of people who would have liked to identify as non-binary” in the latest census.

Deputy Hourigan noted that she has already raised the issue with Minister for Equality Roderic O’Gorman.

In response, Varadkar said “it is definitely something the government is open to”.

He noted that there were only ‘male’ and ‘female’ options, and said: “I think there should be a third option.”

The Tánaiste added: “I would need the advice of the statisticians and the CSO as to how best to do that, whether it’s other and then you write in, or whether you give a list of options”.

Cormac Halpin is senior statistician with the CSO and speaking prior to this year’s census, he told The Journal: “We’re very conscious that gender identity is a very important area for many people.” 

Speaking to The Explainer podcast, he added: “We are conscious that there is some disappointment that there’s not a question on gender identity on the census.” 

However, he said work on testing questions is taking place in smaller CSO surveys to find the best question formats to capture meaningful data. 

Halpin said this question on gender identity will be put forward as part of the consultation for the next census in 2027. 

Explaining why a question on gender identity wasn’t include in this year’s census, Halpin said: “The recommendation that emerged was because gender identity is such a new area of statistical data collection, that the CSO needed to have a really robust and reliable question on gender identity, and on making sure that it was comprehensible to as many people as possible.”

‘Promotional bias’

The committee discussed the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly on gender equality regarding pay and workplace conditions.

Varadkar said the main barrier to women getting into leadership roles and on to company boards is due to promotional bias.

He added that there are fewer women working at senior levels within companies, which he said is not due to lack of opportunities.

He also told the Joint Committee on Gender Equality that barriers faced by women at lower levels are unlikely to be resolved by bringing in mandatory board quotas.

“In terms of the barriers to women getting into leadership positions and getting on to company boards, I think it is probably is down to a degree of promotion bias,” Varadkar said.

“If you look at a lot of organisations, the public service is one example, you’ll see a lot of women up to a certain point and then when you get to the highest tier there are fewer. There are lots of reasons for that but that’s a problem.

“One thing we want to avoid happening is putting in place a set of quotas, when it’s the same people that turn up all the time on the boards.

“You need a stream of people who are getting promoted and I think there is promotional bias in business at the moment for lots of reasons but that needs to change.”

He added: “The progress at board level in Ireland does show what can be achieved when companies focus on making a change.

“It should also be remembered that the primary reasons for the lack of women in leadership positions in business is not simply a lack of opportunity at senior levels in companies, but barriers at the lower levels that are unlikely to be resolved by mandatory board quotas.

“Carefully monitored voluntary targets helped to promote cultural and strategic change at the heart of companies.”

With additional reporting from Press Association 

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