The gender pay gap in Ireland is better than the EU average
FASHION DESIGNER AND entrepreneur Sonya Lennon founded Dress for Success in 2011, with the aim of supporting women in the workforce.
The association aimed to help women gain economic independence and sustainable employment by giving them the clothes and coaching they needed to succeed in their job interviews.
In the years since its founding, however, Lennon and the charity’s workers and volunteers realized there was little they could do to help individual women.
“We realized…we could help a woman succeed by giving her the tools at our disposal, but that in itself was not the answer to the problem,” Lennon said. The newspaper.
“Because we were able to help the woman individually, there were systemic issues that were preventing her from progressing to her full potential in the workplace.”
Dress for Success – which recently changed its name to Work Equal – began to address the cultural and social barriers that prevent women from succeeding in the workplace. In 2018, he brought together a large number of stakeholders – including business leaders, unions, charities and politicians – for a conference.
As a result of this conference, a number of key areas were identified that could impact women’s equal status in the workforce and bring about positive change. These include rethinking childcare in the country, tackling societal norms that place a higher value on men’s work and introducing new laws to close the gender pay gap. in Ireland.
The gender pay gap
The gender pay gap is the difference between the average hourly wages of men and women across the entire workforce, regardless of seniority. It is considered a marker of the participation of women in leadership positions (which are better paid) in a company, a sector or in the country as a whole.
A survey by Work Equal last year found that three-quarters of respondents thought closing the gap was important and should be a priority for government and employers.
However, there remain mixed messages about what steps need to be taken to achieve this and the real nature of the gap.
“I think there’s a lot of confusion, and that’s backed up by the research. A lot of people refer to equal pay, and that’s been enshrined in legislation since the mid-1970s,” Lennon said.
“It’s not to say that equal pay is no longer an issue in certain companies and sectors, but it’s really about opening up the pyramid of your organization or your sector and seeing where the predominance of men and women in all quartiles, and where does the earning power lie?”
In Ireland, Eurostat data shows that the gender pay gap has fluctuated over the past decade. It rose from 12.7% in 2011 to 14.4% in 2017, before dropping to 11.3% in 2019, the last year for which figures are available.
The situation in the EU
The gender pay gap in Ireland is below the EU average of 14.1%. Luxembourg has the smallest gender pay gap at 1.3%, while Estonia has the largest at 21.7%.
Late last year, MEPs voted overwhelmingly to call on EU member states to take practical steps to ensure women have equal access to the labor market and employment , and that they have equal pay and equal labor rights.
Moreover, at the beginning of last year, the European Commission proposed new measures to increase pay transparency in companies. The measures include requiring large companies to report on the gender pay gap in their organisations.
Following this, the European Council adopted a common position on the measures, which must now be debated in the European Parliament.
Close the gap
The current government is committed to ensuring equal representation of men and women in the labor force.
The 2020 agenda for government contains a commitment to introduce new transparency laws similar to those proposed by the European Commission. The laws will require big companies to publish information about the gender pay gap in their organizations.
This law – known as the Gender Pay Gap Disclosure Act – passed through the Oireachtas during the last government’s tenure, but expired when an election was announced in 2020. It has reinstated by the current government and enacted last July. year.
Specific guidelines on how the law will work have yet to be released, but are expected to come into effect later this year. Once that happens, companies with more than 250 employees will be required to publicly publish information about the gender pay gap in their organizations.
In two years, this will apply to companies with more than 150 employees, and in three years, it will apply to companies with more than 50 employees.
Consulting firms have warned employers to start tackling gender pay gaps ahead of time, as they risk damaging their reputations once the gap becomes public knowledge.
Speaking last year when the law was passed by the Oireachtas, Equality Minister Roderic O’Gorman said ‘pay transparency is a step closer’.
“Reporting of the gender pay gap by employers will ensure accountability and transparency, helping to ensure that employers address the gender pay gap,” he said. declared.
One company that has successfully closed the gender pay gap ahead of time is An Post, which announced last year that women in the company now earn slightly more than men on average.
The company launched a report on the gender pay gap in 2019 and, from there, worked to reduce the gap from 3.7% to 0% last year.
Talk to The newspaper, Chief People Officer at An Post, Eleanor Nash, explained how the company managed to completely close the gap:
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“First, we introduced software to remove gender bias from all of our role profiles. So whenever we advertised a role, we ran it through the software just to remove any gender bias,” Nash said.
“And for all of our management roles, we set a goal of having gender-balanced shortlists for interviews. So the best person for the job, but we had gender balance at the interview stage. preselection.”
An Post also promoted its flexible working initiatives and aimed to build the confidence of women who want to grow in the company.
“What we find a lot in women is confidence, and how do you build that confidence with them? We’ve had masterclasses from our board. Top people sharing their own experience of work your way up. “
The company also launched a female candidate acceleration program and worked to help women network across the company.
An Post has over 10,000 full-time employees, the majority of whom are postal agents working in Delivery Service Units (DSUs) across the country. Currently, only 13% of postal workers are women, and Nash says An Post will work to address this issue and increase female representation at all levels of the company.
A symptom, not a cause
Work Equal’s Sonya Lennon welcomed the introduction of the Gender Pay Gap Disclosure Act last year, but says more needs to be done to ensure women’s equality on the job. workplace.
“We are keenly aware that the gender pay gap is a symptom, not a cause. So we really need to start tackling the causes of the pay gap,” she said.
“Obviously raising awareness and highlighting the inequities across sectors is going to be very valuable and help us move towards positive change, but looking at the other aspects around care duties and childcare, around societal norms, this are real issues that still need to be addressed.”
Work Equal is now focusing its lobbying efforts on reinventing childcare in Ireland
“Until men and women share family responsibilities, this idea of an equitable society will always be somewhat elusive,” Lennon said.
“There are fundamental societal issues that are really chilling in terms of creating change, but we need to look at what an action plan might be to address them.”
This work is co-funded by Journal Media and a grant program from the European Parliament. Any opinions or conclusions expressed in this work are those of the author. The European Parliament has no involvement or responsibility for the editorial content published by the project. For more information see here.