Eimear Kelly reviews the status of women in Ireland today, and asks if we can truly call ourselves 'equal'.
Recently, we saw that Leo Varadkar met with Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau for a 90 minute meeting, in which Trudeau gave Varadkar some well-needed advice on including more women in politics. It seems the Canadian prime minister is the ideal man to advise in this situation as his cabinet consists of 50% men and 50% women. Meanwhile, in Ireland, only 20% of the cabinet is made up by women. This raises the question: Are women equal in Ireland? In short, the answer is no. Women are not yet equal in Ireland, in my opinion.
The feminist movement is going strong. Women and men all over Ireland are advocating for equality of the sexes, but we have a long way to go. But let’s talk politics. Varadkar, our current Taoiseach, considers himself a 'feminist'. However, while he claims that he would like a 50:50 split cabinet, he won’t be doing anything about it until after the next general election. He also first defended his cabinet choice, saying that “there are 12 female TDs who support the Fine Gael minority Government, 10 of whom have ministries or chair Oireachtas committees”, according to the Irish Examiner. He also stated that “diversity leads to better decision making and that diversity is about more than gender”. Now, yes, diversity is about more than gender, but gender is a highly important aspect of diversity. It is my belief that women should have an equal say in the pressing issues we all face today, therefore the cabinet should be much closer to 50:50, if not 50:50 altogether. I understand that the most suitable people are going to be chosen for the job, however I also believe that there are many women out there who are more than capable of these positions and deserve to have their voices heard.
In the world of work, the news isn’t any better. According to a Morgan McKinley study, ‘female professionals earn €12,500 a year less than their male counterparts.’ McKinley discovered that even in 2016, the average wage gap was still 20% in Ireland. I think that this is a cause for concern and that women deserve to be paid as much as men are in the professional world. Why shouldn’t they be?
The study also found that a woman’s greater accomplishment in education doesn’t have an effect on the wage gap and that ‘the gender pay gap actually widens with years of experience from 12% for 0-5 years’ experience through to 28% for 15+ years’ experience.’ We are all aware of the gender pay gap, but these statistics are truly shocking, and quite ridiculous to be honest.
We also have to question whether or not businesses and companies are hesitant to employ women between the ages of 20-40. The reason for this is that these are the best years for a woman to have a child or indeed, start a family. Businesses and companies appear to fear that women will need maternity leave, will have extra distractions and cause a disturbance within the business. I believe this is very unfair. Just because a woman may or may not decide to start a family doesn’t mean she shouldn’t be offered the same opportunities as a man would be. I think this is quite an old-fashioned mind set. Women are more than capable of working while rearing a family, if that is what they wish to do. Also, families are smaller now than they were before, there is an abundance of childcare facilities in each county and stay-at-home fathers are a thing now, believe it or not.
It is for these reasons that I believe, unfortunately, women are not yet equal in Ireland. We don’t get an equal say in the running of this country, we are paid far less than our male counterparts, and we are not given equal opportunities to flourish in our chosen careers, purely because we are women.