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Are we there yet? The Good Information Project focuses on gender equality

We want you to join the discussion.

Image: Rolling News

JUST BEFORE CHRISTMAS, a government report highlighted that over half of the Irish population believes the most important role for a woman is to take care of her home and family. 

The most important role for a man, according to a significant proportion of the population (almost 40%), is to earn money.

Ireland is something of a mixed bag when it comes to gender equality. As a country, Ireland performs well in international and European rankings: it ranks seventh in the EU in the European Institute for Gender Equality’s (EIGE) index, and scores ahead of the EU’s overall total. 

Scores for Ireland in this index are particularly high in areas such as health, access to financial resources and work, but there are pronounced gender inequalities in decision-making positions across the political, economic and social spheres. 

Politics and leadership

Despite generally high scores in these kinds of international rankings and a clear path of improvement in many areas in recent years, the government’s report at the end of last year highlighted that many gender norms remain ingrained in Irish society.

While approximately one in two people believe that gender equality has been achieved in leadership positions in the workplace and in politics in Ireland, roughly one in six believe that women do not have the necessary qualities and skills to fill positions of responsibility in politics.

Less than one quarter of the TDs elected to the 33rd Dáil in 2020 were women and just four of the country’s 15 Cabinet ministers are women. At a local level, the make-up is similar, with women taking 25% of seats at the most recent council elections.

Representation in European politics is stronger, where female politicians hold 39% of the European Parliament seats, making up five of Ireland’s 13 MEPS.

Disparities remain at the top levels in business too. The majority of the Irish population (94%) believes that promoting gender equality is important for companies and for the economy. And more than half think gender equality has been achieved in leadership positions in companies and other organisations in Ireland.

The government report however highlighted that less than one third of company board members in the largest publicly listed companies are women and 33.5% of senior and middle management positions are held by women.

Just over 36% of managerial positions were held by women in 2020.

According to the EIGE’s gender equality index, women make up 38% of board members at the Central Bank. At research funding organisations, women have a 41% share on boards. 

The government report last year highlighted that men in Ireland also record the lowest levels in the EU of difficulty in combining paid work with their care responsibilities – less than half the level reported by women in Ireland.

“The data shows that even in a country like Ireland where we have implemented significant legislative and policy measures to promote gender equality in recent years, more work can be done to tackle some of the hidden and attitudinal drivers of inequality,” Minister Roderic O’Gorman said last month. 

He said the report had also highlighted that “moving from restrictive masculinities to gender-equitable masculinities” would have benefits for everyone, allowing men to take on diverse roles, while also having positive consequences for women’s wellbeing.

The Good Information Project’s next cycle focuses on gender equality. Over the coming month, this cycle aims to provide readers with the information they need about women’s place in society and within the structures of power. 

We will examine the political sphere both at home and abroad – and question why the electorate appears more willing to send a woman to Europe than to the Dáil. 

The project will also cover a number of areas such as childcare challenges and their influence on inequality in work, gendered harassment – particularly in online settings, which experts say has intensified during the pandemic – women’s representation in other key decision-making domains and the types of policies and solutions that are genuinely making a difference. 

Both the Irish government and European Commission have committed to actions to improve gender equality.

In her candidate agenda for Europe ahead of her election as President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen included gender equality as one of her priority areas.

She said a new European gender strategy would “systematically address the way laws impact the decisions women take throughout their lives: starting a job, running a business, getting paid, getting married, having children, managing assets and drawing a pension”.

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“We must give women and men equal legal rights across all of these life decisions,” she said.

The European Commission’s Gender Equality Strategy for 2020 to 2025 outlined a number of actions to address inequality in work, including tabling measures on pay transparency, promoting equal uptake of family leave and investment in care services.

The strategy also pledged to improve the balance between women and men in decision-making positions by adopting EU-wide targets in gender balance on corporate boards, encouraging participation of women as voters and candidates in European elections and addressing the digital gender gap. 

The strategy noted the impact of gender-based violence and harassment. It committed to clarifying internet platforms’ role in addressing harmful content, collecting data on the prevalence of gender-based violence and harassment and launching an EU-wide awareness raising campaign focusing on youth. 

The Commission said as part of this strategy a gender perspective will be considered in all policy areas at all levels, including specific needs or challenges in sectors such as transport, energy and agriculture. 

As part of The Good Information Project we will report on progress made to deliver on these commitments and the impact they are having.

We want to hear from you

The Journal launched The Good Information Project with the goal of enlisting readers to take a deep dive with us into key issues impacting Ireland right now.

You can keep up to date by signing up to The Good Information Project newsletter in the box below. If you want to join the discussion, ask questions or share your ideas on this or other topics, you can find our Facebook group here or contact us directly via WhatsApp.

This work is co-funded by Journal Media and a grant programme from the European Parliament. Any opinions or conclusions expressed in this work is the author’s own. The European Parliament has no involvement in nor responsibility for the editorial content published by the project. For more information, see here.

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