'Society is still not doing enough to support women in the workforce'

'Society is still not doing enough to support women in the workforce'

Women stand to be disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 crisis when it comes to leadership roles in firms and organisations, leading academics have warned.

Cork University Business School (CUBS) said while data showed progress was being made in recent months, women were now more likely to lose out when it came to progression due to the pandemic’s effect on the economy.

Research from the 30% Club - a group of senior business leaders aiming to close the gender gap in leadership roles - illustrated the progress being made in the area from 2015 to 2018, with the number of women in the lower levels of management increasing from 30% to 45%.

The proportion at executive director level rose from 23% to 30%, and at CEO level from 14% to 18%, the research found.

However, Professor Anthony McDonnell of CUBS said that now was not the time for self-congratulation but a time to further focus on ensuring the progress being made continues.

He said the Covid-19 pandemic may have a disproportionately negative impact on females given that they tend to entail a higher proportion of part-time and precarious work and earn less than men.

This may mean that their jobs are more susceptible to being lost, whilst also viewed as less valuable within households that have dual earners, he said.

Professor McDonnell also pointed to the recent suspension of the requirement for companies in Britain to report on their gender pay gap given the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic as concerning.

“This development is an early example of actions that may at least implicitly derail the positive steps that had been taken when gender pay gap reporting was introduced,” he said.

Professor McDonnell’s Department of Management and Marketing at CUBS, in association with the 30% Club, has just announced two new full scholarships to help promote women in senior project management, human resources and leadership roles within organisations.

Dean of CUBS, Professor Thia Hennessy, said: “Society is still not doing enough to support women in the workforce and we do not have enough females in senior business roles. This is a great concern for all in society and is something about which I am personally very concerned. 

“I am a great admirer of the work of the 30% Club and we are delighted to be able to offer these scholarships at UCC and give the opportunity to aspiring female business leaders to fulfil their potential.”

The 30% Club was officially launched in Ireland in January 2015 and it is now supported by the leaders of over 200 Irish businesses committed to accelerating gender balance in their organisations through voluntary actions. It aims to have 30% women on boards and in executive management by 2020.

Chair of 30% Club Ireland, Carol Andrews said: “We are delighted to partner with UCC which joins a number of universities and business schools across Ireland to rectify the under-representation of women pursuing post-graduate management education by offering scholarships for women.

“Through these partnerships, we seek to build a continuum of change, highlighting the impact of executive education in accelerating career development and helping women to decide to undertake further education.”

The deadline for submission of applications for the scholarships is July 10. Full details on the application process can be found at:  www.cubsucc.com/postgraduate-scholarships/

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