Expert: Many businesses experiencing 'gender fatigue'

Expert: Many businesses experiencing 'gender fatigue'

A leading international expert has told an event on gender equality in Cork today that organisations are experiencing ‘gender fatigue’ when it comes to implementing gender diversity.

Carol Kulik, Research Professor of Human Resource Management, University of South Australia Business School told the conference at UCC that, despite a sense of urgency from external pressures over implementing gender diversity, the opposite is happening in organisations.

Ms Kulik said: “It is getting hard to generate enthusiasm in organisations with regard to gender diversity and many businesses are experiencing gender fatigue. It is hard to keep gender diversity issues on the boil and that’s a shame.”

The conference heard that organisations that have females in senior management roles have higher sales and higher levels of creativity and innovation.

Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality, David Stanton, told the conference that he can see improvements in how business is done in Leinster House now that there are more female politicians.

Minister Stanton said: “When a critical mass of women are in decision-making, the culture of an organisation changes.

I have seen at first-hand within Leinster House the benefits of greater gender balance.

"While we are far from reaching gender parity in political representation, the culture in Leinster House has transformed with the increase in the number of women TDs and senators at the last election."

He explained how TDs in Leinster House do their day-to-day business differently.

He said: “It is much more common for mixed groups of female and male politicians to sit down together to discuss issues and to work collaboratively to devise solutions.

"Our priorities have broadened too, to accommodate the interests of women as well as men.

"Having more women as politicians is enabling the democratic process to become more truly representative of Irish society.”

Ms Kulik said that in Australia now there are around 28% of females on company boards, whereas that figure is 16% in Ireland. She said that that is where Australia was around four years ago.

Ms Kulik also spoke about the impact of implementing flexible work practices and appointing more females on company boards.

She said some research shows that when there are fewer females on company boards the gender pay gap in organisations is much greater, up to 50%.

Ronan Carbery of the HRRC said: “While historically there has been relatively low labour force participation amongst women in Ireland, this has markedly improved over the last 20 years where we are now in a position where over 60% of adult women are in employment.

"However we still have a constitution that refers to the State recognising that a woman’s life is played out in the home."

"In addition, over a third of women in the Irish workforce have considered leaving or left their professional positions due to opportunity inequalities in their company.

"Organisations that have females in senior management roles have higher sales, and higher levels of creativity and innovation.”

Ms Kulik said progress may be plateauing, and that visible increases in gender diversity at the top may be masking deeper, systemic gender equality.

“The question today – in Ireland, as it is in many developed countries – is not whether women can or should work," said Professor Kulik.

"The question is whether the work women do is valued as much as the work men do, and whether women’s work is as likely as men’s to lead to senior management roles.”

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