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Government hosts Symposium on the Gender Pay Gap

Ministers Flanagan, Humphreys and Stanton bring together senior policymakers, business representatives, trade unions and academics to advance measures to address the gender pay gap.

Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan, Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, and Minister of State with special responsibility for Equality, Immigration and Integration, David Stanton, today (10 January 2018) hosted a symposium on the gender pay gap in Iveagh House in Dublin.

Moderated by broadcaster and journalist, Mr. Cathal MacCoille, the symposium brings together over 130 participants including politicians, senior policymakers, business representatives, trade unions and academics.

The event was opened by Minister Flanagan and Minister Humphreys. Minister Flanagan welcomed this timely opportunity to focus on what is one of the greatest challenges that we still face in fostering gender equality in Ireland, and said: “In this significant year, marking a century since women achieved equal voting rights in Ireland, the time is right to make a great stride forward in advancing the gender equality agenda and implementing the commitments in the Programme for Government in this regard. Today’s symposium is intended to raise awareness of the factors underpinning the gender pay gap. However, it also seeks to go further than that. We want to set a challenge to identify the actions that can be taken to address the gender pay gap in Ireland. We have brought everyone together for this symposium as experts in their own individual fields - from the worlds of politics and government, of business, trade unions, the professions, academia and civil society. I look forward to what promises to be a dynamic sharing of expertise and diverse perspectives.”

Minister Humphreys said: “Closing the gender pay gap will create a better and fairer society, but it also makes good business sense, bringing greater profitability to the economy as a whole. I am currently developing the Action Plan for Jobs for 2018, and will be listening carefully to the outcomes of today’s symposium as I set out to further progress gender equality through the Action Plan. We have already seen good progress in the area of female entrepreneurship and I want to build on that work.”

Minister Flanagan briefed attendees on the submissions received to the public consultation held between August and October 2017 seeking views on measures to tackle the gender pay gap. The symposium also heard from Mr Andy Klom, Deputy Head of the European Commission Representation in Dublin, about the initiatives under consideration in the European Commission to address the gender pay gap.

Participants heard from a wide range of speakers and panelists: Dr Orlaigh Quinn, Secretary General, Department of Business, Enterprise & Innovation; Morgan O’Donnell, Statistician, CSO; Dr Micheál Collins, UCD; Dr Christine Cross & Dr Caroline Murphy, UL; Dr Isabella Biletta, Eurofound (on behalf of Dr Christine Aumayr-Pintar); Orla O’Connor, Director, National Women’s Council of Ireland; Áine Myler, Director General of the Society of Chartered Surveyors in Ireland; Mary Connaughton, Director, CIPD Ireland; Dr Kara McGann, Senior Policy Executive, Ibec; Patricia King, General Secretary, Irish Congress of Trade Unions; Emma Kerins, EU and International Affairs Manager, Chambers Ireland; Senator Ivana Bacik; and Emily Logan, Chief Commissioner, IHREC.

Minister of State Stanton, who made the closing address, welcomed the work underway in the European Commission in this field. He emphasised the need for a whole of government approach, arguing that the gender pay gap is not the result of just one factor, and stating that: “We need to take action now to make equality truly a reality for working women. Today’s symposium has offered useful perspectives on the way forward. The Government will be bringing forward a range of actions to tackle this issue, starting with legislation on wage transparency”.


For more information, please contact the Department of Justice and Equality press office at or on (01) 602 8359.

Note for editors:

Public consultation on measures to address the gender pay gap – Key Points

The public consultation on measures to address the gender pay gap received 38 submissions from employers, unions, civil society, professional bodies and individuals from varied backgrounds. Responses largely reflected six of the contributory factors identified by the EU Commission in its research as the main causes of gender pay gap. These were:

  • occupational and sectoral segregation – whereby women and men carry out different jobs and often work in different sectors, with more women than men in lower-paid employment;
  • undervaluing of work and skills associated with women;
  • a lack of women in senior and leadership roles;
  • difficulties balancing work and family responsibilities, including access to childcare;
  • gender roles and traditions, such as the association of caring responsibilities with women;
  • perceived discrimination in the workplace.

Respondents also identified a range of issues associated with another of the factors identified by the Commission, namely workplace practices and pay systems. The issues highlighted were:

  • that more women than men were in part-time employment;
  • the prevalence of precarious work and zero-hour contracts;
  • unconscious bias;
  • lack of flexible work practices;
  • non-transparency of pay structures; and
  • initial and unequal salary negotiations disadvantaging women.

172 individual actions were proposed to address the problem of the gender pay gap:

  • 45, or a quarter of the suggested actions, were directed at non-transparency of pay structures;
  • Occupational and sectoral segregation, including the prevalence of women in low-paid work, was referenced in 25 suggested actions, or 14% of the total;
  • 24 actions, or 14% of the total, were directed at gender roles and traditions, such as at the association of caring responsibilities with women;
  • A further 17 actions, 10% of the total, addressed difficulties in balancing work and family responsibilities and in getting access to childcare; and
  • Unconscious bias was addressed by 16 actions, or 9% of the total.

Actions relating to pay transparency were raised repeatedly in submissions. These included improving data collection and Government statistics, undertaking company wage surveys disaggregated by gender, encouraging transparent pay scales, promotion of information and awareness of the gender pay gap, and sector-specific recommendations. Other examples of actions put forward were:

  • suggestions to increase paternity leave and to introduce mandatory shared parental leave;
  • promoting continuous unconscious bias training at all levels in business and education;
  • introducing gender-neutral job evaluation criteria, and introducing affirmative recruitment systems;
  • promotion of STEM subjects and apprenticeships to girls and young women, and reviewing the subjects offered by girls’ schools to ensure a full offering of STEM subjects;
  • various actions to address the availability and affordability of paid childcare; and
  • tracking gender trends against economic cycles.