Cartoon representing gender inequality and a man running on a track with a woman running behind and facing hurdles.
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Women in tech sector are the ‘most empowered’ globally but Ireland lags behind

8 Mar 2023

In terms of women’s representation in the workplace, Irish women are not doing as well as some of their international counterparts, recent research shows.

PwC is one of the many, many organisations that have released data on women in the workplace for International Women’s Day today (8 March).

The firm found that Ireland lags behind other member countries of OECD (The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) when it comes to how empowered women feel at work.

While an analysis of 22,000 women around the world by PwC found that women in technology were the most empowered workers overall, this is not the case for Irish women.

In Ireland, there was a gap of of 46pc between the proportion of women respondents who said that being fairly rewarded financially for their work was important to them and the proportion who actually experience it.

The global average was 34pc to put this in perspective. And that was the biggest gap between the genders in the overall global survey.

Pay gap problems

It’s not just PwC that has highlighted the gender pay gap in Ireland.

Data released last year by employer brand company Universum found that the gender pay gap in Ireland was highest among IT professionals.

Universum also reported that the gender pay gap in Ireland was 16pc. Ireland’s gender pay gap stands at 12.6pc according to other, separate PwC research which looked at companies based in Ireland that published their gender pay gap reports in December 2022.

It’s hard to pin down an exact figure on what the gender pay gap is in Ireland, but one thing is certain: there is progress to be made in terms of how satisfied women are with their working lives.

Ireland ranks 12th out of 33 OECD countries when it comes to conditions for women in the workplace, according to PwC.

The firm looked at how women are faring in workplaces across the OECD, using OECD data from 2021 – the most recent data available.

Small improvements, but no great leaps

Ireland has managed to improve its ranking by three places from 15th to 12th in the year since PwC last released any research on the matter.

The slight advancement in Ireland was mainly due to a rise in women’s labour participation rate to 69.6pc in 2021, up from 65.6pc in 2020. Boardroom representation for women in Ireland also increased to 31pc from 26.8pc last year.

At current rates it will take more than half-a-century to close the gender pay gap across the OECD, the PwC research found.

Luxembourg, New Zealand, Slovenia and Sweden are considered the countries to aspire to when it comes to women’s working conditions. They ranked highly on the OECD index.

Commenting on the findings, Ger McDonough, partner, PwC Ireland People & Organisation, said: “According to the survey, a 20-year-old woman entering the workforce today will not see pay equality in her working lifetime.”

“At the rate the gender pay gap is closing, it will take more than half a century to reach gender pay parity. If the rebound from the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we can’t rely on economic growth alone to produce gender equality – unless we want to wait another 50 years or more.”

Flexibility and autonomy

McDonagh also commented on the findings about empowerment of women in the workplace.

“Autonomy fuels empowerment for both women and men, but women currently have less autonomy over how, when and where they work. Demand for flexibility is a talent-wide proposition, and one that can’t be ignored by employers as they seek to enhance diversity, fuel engagement and innovation, and position themselves as an employer of choice.”

In terms of flexible work, research from Grant Thornton, also released today, found that flexible work models have had a positive impact on women in the workforce globally. Ireland also benefitted from this.

According to Grant Thornton’s international business report, 40pc of women in Ireland now hold senior management positions, which is up from 30pc in 2022.

But by any stretch of the imagination there is a lot more employers can do to make women feel valued at work. The gender pay gap and the lack of women in senior leadership positions is a good place to start.

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Blathnaid O’Dea
By Blathnaid O’Dea

Blathnaid O’Dea worked as a Careers reporter until 2024, coming from a background in the Humanities. She likes people, pranking, pictures of puffins – and apparently alliteration.

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