Lack of gender equality in State’s decision-making

Women make up just one third of members of State boards and have been "consistently under-represented in economic portfolios," according to a report submitted to Cabinet on gender equality in decision-making roles.

It says that the figures have remained “fairly static” for some time, despite a 40% target set by consecutive administrations.

The report, ‘Towards Gender Parity in DecisionMaking in Ireland’, also says that one of Ireland’s weakest gender equality indicators is in politics, where it compares “very poorly” with other European countries.

Women make up just 15% of TDs in the Dáil compared to an average female representation of 24% across 27 EU states.

However, the report, published last week by minister of state Kathleen Lynch, who had responsibility for equality until the recent cabinet reshuffle, notes that men and women candidates have equal success rates in general elections.

“There is no gender bias by the electorate,” says the report, so the imbalance is a result of a lack of “political will” by individual parties to put more women forward.

Of the country’s 265 State boards, with a total membership of 3,426 people, women make up 34% of positions and 21% of chairpersons.

They make up just 24% of positions in the important economic boards that come under the Department of Finance.

In April 2011, Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin brought a proposal to Cabinet to allow future State board positions to be publicly advertised, with the invitation for applications containing the line that “due regard will be given to Government policy on gender balance”. Of the 22 appointments made by Mr Howlin since then, none have been advertised, 17 have been men and five — or 23% — are female.

The number of women on boards under the Department of Jobs and Enterprise has increased from 28.8% at the end of 2012 to 38.3%, while the figures for the Department of Justice have risen from 36.5% to 38.1%.

All but three of the 14 Government departments — Health, Children, and Education — have failed to reach the 40% target set out in the Programme for Government.

The report says a “pattern has emerged over the years” where “women have been consistently under-represented in economic portfolios, with other certain types of portfolios earmarked for women — generally those associated with caring roles.

The report’s recommendation that a “talent bank” of suitable women to serve on State boards be compiled, was accepted by the newly-appointed Equality Minister, Labour’s Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, who got approval for the move at last week’s Cabinet meeting.

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