learn > news

Latest News

Women - still excluded from decision-making!

Published: Friday, November 29, 2002

Until women and men share power, democracy is an unfinished business

Conference on Women in Politics and Decision-Making, Burlington Hotel Dublin

'Whether elected or appointed, the overwhelming number of those in positions of power anddecision-making in Ireland are male' declared Ms Gráinne Healy, at the National Women's Council of Ireland (NWCI) conference on women in decision-making. 'The findings in Irish Politics - Jobs for the Boys, a new NWCI research report being launched today, expose deep and systematic gender inequality' she continued. 'The report also highlights the failure by successive Governments to end discrimination against women in politics and decision-making. 'The NWCI research and conference, funded by the NDP Gender Equality Unit, is intended to kick-start a debate on parity democracy' she said.

Ms Healy explained that Ireland ranks 59th out of 120 nations in the world in women's parliamentary representation. 'We are lower than the European average (17%), lower than the average for the Americas (16%) lower than the Asian average (16%) and even lower than the average for sub-Saharan Africa (13%)' she stated. 'Women's exclusion from politics is mirrored by our exclusion from other decision-making functions, only 3% of Managing Directors are women, only 9% of secretary-generals in the civil service are women and only 7% of High Court judges are women' added Ms Healy. 'The NWCI photo exhibition Put More Women in the Picture highlights how few women are present on health boards, VECs, town councils and other decision-making bodies' she declared.

'Progress on parity democracy for women in Ireland is simply not happening' asserted Ms Healy. 'France, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Belgium, Iceland and Denmark have all made overt moves to improve their democracies by working towards significantly increasing the numbers of women in politics and decision-making. In each case the Government actively committed itself to the goal of parity democracy and instigated a public debate and awareness campaign led by the party leaders' she stated. 'Proactive measures must now be taken in Ireland to deliver equal participation for women in all aspects of decision-making' she continued. 'The face of Irish political and economic life will have to change and those who benefit from the present system will resist such change' she added. 'Political and business leaders, committed to equality, must plan in partnership with women to develop structures and practices which will lead to equality in decision making between women and men.

She outlined the following findings from NWCI research:

  • Only 13% of those elected to the Dáil are women. This percentage has risen by only 1% over the past 10 years;
  • It will take 370 years for the percentage of women in the Dáil to reach 50%;
  • The percentage of women appointed to the Cabinet in this Government has declined by 7% while the percentage of women Ministers of State has decreased by 11%;
  • Ten counties have no woman TD;
  • Only 17% of those elected to the Seanad are women;
  • Only 15% of elected councillors are women. This percentage has not risen since 1991;
  • The percentage of women appointed to State boards has rarely reached 40% although this has been an official Government guideline since 1991;
  • The Central Bank and Bord na gCon have no women on their boards;
  • Bord Gáis has only one woman member while the ESB, Bord na Mona and Bord Fáilte have only two women members each.

'According to the United Nations Report on Human Development, there can be no true democracy, no true people's participation in governance and development without the equal participation of women and men in all spheres of life and levels of decision-making' stated Ms Healy. 'Democracy is an unfinished business in Ireland while we await a time when men and women share power as equals' concluded Ms Healy.

Marie Wilson, President of the United States White House Project spoke about the importance of a critical mass of women in decision-making positions. 'The White House project has studied how the print media treats women in US politics. It found that women are covered less substantively and more personally than their male counterparts' she stated. 'When one woman runs, she is looked at through the lens of gender, hats, hemlines and husbands. Two women become a catfight. When three, four or five women run, the focus shifts from gender to agenda, where it belongs' she concluded.

The NWCI conference and publications on women in decision-making were fully funded by the NDP Gender Equality Unit of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Funded by the Irish Government and part-financed by the European Union Structural Funds under the National Development Plan 2000 - 2006.