Address by the Minister of State with special responsibility
for Equality, Immigration and Integration
David Stanton TD

to the

National Symposium: Rising to the challenge –
addressing Ireland’s gender pay gap

Iveagh House, 80 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2

Wednesday, 10 January 2018, 17:40 pm

Deputies, Senators, moderator and distinguished speakers and guests,

I am delighted that today’s symposium has enabled us to understand more clearly the complex issues underpinning the gender pay gap and the ways in which those factors can be addressed.

I encourage you all to embrace the possibilities for change that have been proposed today.  Today’s event is the first step in a process to bring about the multi-faceted change needed to reduce the gender pay gap.

The thought-provoking contributions that we have heard today confirm our firm belief that the gender pay gap is not inevitable. It can be narrowed. Narrowing the gap will benefit women and men alike.

Our discussions today confirm that the gender pay gap is not the result of just one factor.  It is the consequence of a series of decisions and behaviours, informed and constrained by tradition and attitudes. Some of these attitudes are cultural legacies of a society that at times has valued women and men differently, and valued skills differently, depending on whether they were associated with women or with men.

The solution must be equally nuanced. Some factors can be addressed directly, and where we identify such factors, we need to act. For others, we need to track back upstream and address the source of the problem.  Some of these interventions will be long term. Others can deliver more immediate change. The key point is that there ARE actions that can be taken immediately by Government and organisations.  It is important that we begin to the process of change now.

As Minister Flanagan said earlier, the Department of Justice and Equality and the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation have been working together to advance the implementation of our Programme for Government commitments in relation to the gender pay gap. The involvement of both Departments is important from the point of view of stakeholder engagement.  Our cooperation is intended to bring together both business and gender equality perspectives.

In last August’s consultation document, my Department set out the programme of work already being undertaken or in planning to address the gender pay gap, many being new actions introduced in the National Strategy for Women and Girls published by the then Tánaiste, Frances Fitzgerald, and myself last May. This includes:

· addressing societal factors by improving supports for working parents, continued Government investment in childcare, and addressing gender stereotypes that, from the youngest age, limit educational and occupational choices.
· Differences in human capital are being tackled in the ongoing efforts to promote the gender imbalance in STEM education and careers, in apprenticeships, and targeting women returners and women in female-headed households.
· The Government has acted to increase the minimum wage.
· It has brought forward legislation to address the casualization of work and the issue of precarious employment.
· We will shortly announce a review group to promote greater participation by women on corporate boards.
· The Government is currently working on proposals to introduce paid parental leave.
· Under the National Strategy for Women and Girls we are also considering the possibility of introducing an equality and diversity mark for business.

The Strategy Committee of the National Strategy for Women and Girls, which I chair, will reconvene at the end of this month. I will continue to advance this work with the advice of the Strategy Committee, to develop and implement practical initiatives in this space. We will also set out how business and trades unions can support this process.  In this context, I am pleased to learn today that discussions are taking place between Ibec and ICTU on the subject of wage surveys.  Clearly, any agreement reached will be an important input into the Government’s consideration of this matter. 

A key immediate concern in this ongoing stakeholder engagement will be to improve wage transparency, and in this regard I affirm the Government’s commitment to pursue the introduction of employer wage surveys. The indications from other countries which have introduced such measures is that publishing statistics related to the gender pay gap at company level can draw attention to any gender imbalances that exist, and encourage action at that level. In our near neighbour, the UK, the introduction of gender pay gap reporting for employers from April 2017 has given the issue unprecedented public prominence.

However, the evidence from our speakers today will, I hope, have made clear that effective action is not limited to Government-led initiatives. I therefore strongly encourage you to consider the influence we can have at a personal level to address factors that contribute to the existence of the gender pay gap, whether that be within our own families, within our communities, in our workplaces, or in our sectors.

There is always something that each individual person can do. I was reminded recently of advice Mahatma Gandhi is reputed to have given. He said “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do”.

Indeed, this is no longer a time to “wait and see”. We have waited long enough, and the path ahead is clear. As we were putting together the programme for this symposium, it became clear to us that it should be a call for common action, a call to “rise to the challenge”, and to reflect our belief that this was a time for leadership. This leadership is required in all sectors of Irish society.

As the old Irish proverb has it, “ní neart go cur le chéile” – there is no strength without unity. It is when we come together, each of us contributing to the best of our ability, that we will see momentum growing to achieve substantive and sustainable change for the better in Irish society.

I cannot conclude without a few words of appreciation, on behalf of my colleagues Minister for Justice and Equality, Charles Flanagan, and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, and myself, to everyone who contributed to the success of today’s event.

For his sterling work in keeping us on track and on topic, and ensuring participation from our audience, I invite you to join me in an expression of appreciation to our distinguished moderator, Mr Cathal Mac Coille.

We were honoured to have with us, Mr Andy Klom, Deputy Head of the EC Representation in Dublin, representing the European Commission.

I also extend our thanks to the distinguished panels of speakers, who have given of their time and generously shared their knowledge and experience with us. To Dr Orlaigh Quinn, Morgan O’Donnell, Dr Micheál Collins, Dr Caroline Murphy, Dr Christine Cross, from Eurofound - Dr Christine Aumayr-Pintar and Dr Isabella Biletta, Orla O’Connor, Áine Myler, Mary Connaughton, Dr Kara McGann, Patricia King, Emma Kerins, Senator Ivana Bacik, and Emily Logan, we very much appreciate your contributions.

I am deeply grateful to our hosts, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, for kindly providing this superb venue for our deliberations today.

I also express our appreciation to our diligent Irish Sign-Language Interpreters, to the catering and audiovisual support staff, and to the staff of the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation. In particular, I want to thank Deirdre Ní Neill, Terence O’Hagan and the officials of the Gender Equality Division of the Department of Justice and Equality, led by Assistant Secretary Carol Baxter, who organised today’s event.

Finally, I also thank you, our symposium participants, for taking time from your busy schedules to attend today, for your active engagement and enthusiastic response to the panels, and the insights that have enriched the discussion.

I very much look forward to what we can achieve together over the coming months, and wish you a safe journey home.