Friday, March 02, 2012

Huge hurdles still to cross on gender pay gap

Fine Gael Meath East TD, Regina Doherty, has today (Friday) said that the European Commission study which shows that Irish women are earning 17% less than men proves there are still huge hurdles to cross when it comes to addressing the gender pay gap.

“It didn’t come as a huge surprise to me to learn that Irish women continue to earn considerably less than men. While there has been progress in recent years, we still have a long way to go when it comes to equality in the workplace.

“As a female TD, while I may earn the same as my male colleagues, I also work in an environment that is grossly unequal. Women are severely underrepresented in the Dáil. The nature of our political system is extremely difficult to juggle with having a family, and female Oireachtas members do not receive maternity leave.

“The Government is attempting to address the inequality within our national parliament through the Electoral Amendment Bill, which will enforce gender quotas for candidates in the next general election. While this will go some way to address an aspect of the inequality associated with public life, today’s European Commission survey clearly shows that significant progress is needed to address the inequality that persists within the private sector.

“I believe we need to look as a society at how we support women in the workplace. Appropriate maternity cover and childcare supports are essential. But I think a greater cultural shift is also needed; as women must challenge casual sexism, rather than choosing to ignore it. We must also ensure we are properly valued in the workplace; there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that in many cases women are paid less, simply because they do not ask for more.

“Despite the fact that girls perform better in school and at college than their male counterparts, a gaping pay difference persists in the workplace. However, it is somewhat encouraging to see that the gap is smaller for younger women, which indicates that we are moving in the right direction.

“Discrimination must not be tolerated. Greater income transparency within companies could help to address pay gaps. But in reality, legislation and workplace standards can only achieve so much. We must demand equality in attitudes and behaviour from each other if we are truly to become a progressive and just society.”

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