Women at work
Things have changed for women over the past 40 years. Before 1973, most women in Ireland were forced to leave their job on marriage. But Ireland’s 1973 EU accession forced the State to abandon the marriage bar, and women were free to join female primary school teachers, exempted from the bar 1958, in remaining in all areas of the workforce. In 1977, the Employment Equality Act prohibited discrimination on the grounds of gender or marital status in almost all jobs.
That was then and this is now. So how are women in Ireland faring after 40 years back in the paid workforce? Well, they are present. Present in most areas of employment, although bunched disproportionately into certain areas, what NUI Maynooth’s Dr Mary Murphy calls “occupational segregation”. Clerical, sales, health, personal services, childcare and education are woman-rich. But pay-poor.
While women are over-represented in some sectors, they are under-represented at higher levels in all sectors. CSO figures for the last quarter of 2012 show that more women are in “professional” jobs than men (58.6 per cent), yet just 30 per cent of managers, directors and senior officials are women. Two thirds of the the Civil Service are women, but only 17.6 per cent of women work at secretary general level.
And, most worryingly, when it comes to women in the workforce in Ireland, it seems we have merely swapped barriers; in place of a marriage bar, we have constructed a “maternity bar”. OECD figures show that in Ireland, women with no children were paid 17 per cent more than their male counterparts. Women with at least one child were paid 14 per cent less than men.
Being a mother costs women far more than being a father costs men. Several solutions were suggested during last week’s Women at Work series in The Irish Times: paying paternity leave, and permitting the sharing of parental leave were two. Caring roles need to be revalued, and then redistributed. Time to tear down the “maternity bar”.