International women's Day‘We’re 51% of the population. We are not a minority group… So what’s happening?’

As heard on Today with Sean O'Rourke

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A statistic that might make you sit up and take note on this International Women’s Day. Eurostat has said that, on average, across Europe, men are paid 23% more than women who do the exact same job.

Despite huge progress that has been made in recent decades, it seems there is still a long way to go to achieve gender equality, and the panelists joining Sean O’Rourke had differing opinions on how those problems are both identified and solved. Those panelists were Louise O’Reilly, Sinn Fein TD for Dublin Fingal, Carolan Lennon, managing director of open eir, the largest supplier of wholesale broadband and data in the country, and Lorraine Courtney, columnist with the Irish Independent.

Amongst the issues on which there were differences of opinion: the issue of quotas, in the public service and beyond. Historically, boardrooms, top managerial positions and panels of all kinds have been dominated by men. And on that note, Louise O’Reilly had this to say.

“It is a fact that we don’t challenge when we see all men on a panel. When we see all women on a panel, everybody raises eyebrows, and says that’s quite interesting, that is an unusual panel. It’s International Women’s Day, three women in studio, and that’s great. But tomorrow, it won’t be International Women’s Day. We need to get to a situation whereby we get the right people on the panel, and nobody comments on the gender make-up. We have a long, long way to go before we get there, but we’re getting there.”

Louise O’Reilly, describing herself as the daughter of proud feminist father, does not blame individual men for the patriarchal nature of society. It’s a culture that needs to be overcome. And, as presenter, Sean O’Rourke pointed out, with high-profile women occupying positions like the Minister for Justice, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, director-general of RTÉ, head of Bord Bia, head of Glanbia, and others, there are now role models where years ago there were none. But, as Caroline Lennon pointed out:

“There is no doubt progress is being made. But if you look at that across the board, the boards across Ireland, you are going to see tiny percentages.”

She went on.

“We’re 51% of the population. We are not a minority group. We are better educated coming out of school. We do really well in University. When we join work, we add to our qualifications. So what’s happening?”

To listen to the full interview, click here. And, happy International Women’s Day, everyone!

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© The Listener 2017

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