Sporting bodies could lose thousands of euro if they fail to comply with new gender quota guidelines being introduced to encourage more women to get involved and take leadership roles in sport.

Sports Minister Patrick O’Donovan said he wanted to “break the glass ceiling” which has seen low numbers of women holding positions on the boards of sporting bodies.

New measures will be brought to Cabinet in the new year which will see plans for the sport gender quotas introduced in two years. At least 30% of those on the bodies’ boards will have to be women.

The proposals were, for the most part, welcomed by women’s representatives yesterday.

Mr O’Donovan said: “One element which has been raised continuously with me by women and others involved in sport is the gap at the top of Irish sport about how women are empowered.”

Under the plans, most publicly funded sports bodies will have until 2019 to ensure they comply with the changes while smaller organisations will be given another year.

Mr O’Donovan refused to specify how much bodies would lose. But it is understood thousands of euro could be taken away if boards of organisations with over 10 employees do not comply.

“You need to intervene at some period and say if a financial penalty is worth considering, it is worth considering,” the minister told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

The rule could be further rolled out so the gender quota at a later stage is included in sports coaching and mentoring schemes, it was added.

“What I’m trying to do is provide an opportunity for women to break that glass ceiling which is one of the last remaining glass ceilings that there is for women in Ireland,” said the Limerick County TD.

The National Women’s Council of Ireland welcomed the proposals.

Director Orla O’Connor said: “Given the high profile of women’s sports and the massive successes of our women athletes, from rugby to boxing in recent years, this is an important step to ensuring much-needed gender balance.

“You cannot be what you cannot see, and while young women have a whole host of role models on the field, it is equally important that they see women in decision-making positions off the field.”

The council said the economic case for women on boards is clear cut.

“Board performance is largely dependent upon us tapping into the economic power and potential of women, and quotas have real merit as a mechanism for overcoming structural inequality. However quotas will only achieve lasting success, when used as part of a larger strategy that tackles board requirements.”

But former minister and Fianna Fáil TD Mary O’Rourke said she disagreed with the proposed quotas.

“In general terms, I think gender quotas are false,” she said.

“I think that they put forward the idea that you should be picked for the role, whatever the role is, on the basis of your sex rather than on the basis of if you would be good for the job,” she told Newstalk.


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