A big gender balance issue is that many men don’t even see it

A big gender balance issue is that many men don’t even see it

Joanna Murphy, CEO of Taxback.com: Most popular explanation of the gender gap is that men have traditionally been paid more. Photo: Paul Sherwood

FLEXIBLE work practices and boardroom gender quotas have only gone a small way to redressing workplace inequality for women, says one leading financial advisor.

Joanna Murphy, CEO of Taxback.com, a tax refund, and tax return filing specialist said that Taxback.com’s ‘All-Ireland Employee Wellbeing Survey’ shows significant disparity between how men and women perceive issues around gender pay gaps and access to career advancement.

When asked, 50% of the Irish workforce say they have either seen and/ or experienced the gender pay gap in action. However, when it comes to the experience of male and female workers, the feedback is quite different, with just 36% of men saying they have witnessed this in the workplace, compared to 63% of women.

Joanna Murphy said: “From our perspective if we are serious about being able to empower women in the workplace, we must support gender balance in a more meaningful way. Flexibility in work can be very advantageous for family life.

“But for flexibility to work, you would need to see that women taking maternity leave can return to work feeling their career prospects haven’t been impacted. Is it reasonable for women to step out of the workplace for a year and return to pick up where they left off?”

The survey suggests that women say yes, but many men still say no. Joanna says that women are under-represented in senior roles in sectors like technology. The gender gaps are also quite glaring in relation to salaries and board-level representation.

The Wellbeing survey of 1,200 employees, which was conducted in conjunction with Healthy Place to Work Ireland, in SMEs throughout the country also found that 66% of workers support new EU-led quota targets to have females making up at least 33% of board members of publicly listed companies by 2027, believing they are achievable or saying that, in fact, we should be aiming even higher.

Joanna said: “According to EU figures, men in Ireland currently earn 11.3% more than women. Our survey exposes the fact that this differential is very much a real and lived experience for many of Ireland’s female workers, with more than 6 in 10 having witnessed it, and 3 in 10 of those having been directly impacted by it.

“It is not surprising that there is a very evident gender bias among those who say they have not experienced with just 37% of women saying they’ve never seen nor experienced it, as opposed to 64% of men.”

The Taxback.com survey looked at attitudes of workers towards new EU-led gender targets for company boards and non-executive positions, to which Ireland has recently given its backing.

Joanna said: “The balance in board rooms is improving, but the stats show that while we are making an impact, things are changing very slowly. The biggest issue for women is that many people don’t even see the problem.

“If you say you are not aware of the problem, then you are never going to see it. That said, in the last 20 years, there has been a significant attitude shift and you can see some general balance coming through. Board room gender quotas are necessary. They show women that they can have an impact at the top.”

Fania Stoney, CEO of Healthy Place to Work Ireland, spoke of the support voiced by employees for the EU directive on board room gender quotas.

“There was widespread support for this Directive across the board, and one-third of respondents even feel that these gender targets are too low and that we should be aiming higher,” said Fania.

“Ireland is already making serious gains in this area, with a new report from Business in the Community recently revealing that women make up 39% of staff in senior management roles and 38% of roles in executive positions in Ireland’s top 50 companies.

“These figures surpass the national average of 30%, which just goes to show how far we have come in terms of gender equality in the workplace. Interestingly, twice as many male workers (25% versus 12% of women) said that they don’t believe in gender quotas.”

Taxback.com report that the survey revealed a cohort of workers who are less enthused about the EU targets – with 15% believing that the targets are unachievable, and 17% contending that such quotas are unnecessary in the first place.

Joanna Murphy added: “From previous research, we have conducted on the topic, we have found that amongst the people who do agree that there is a gender pay gap, the most popular explanation has been that men have traditionally always been paid more than women – perhaps up to now there has been almost an acceptance of this in society as a ‘fait accompli’.

“A lack of investment in women’s careers is also a very commonly cited factor. These are long-standing, structural attitudes that have been embedded in the world of employment and work for decades, and despite progress at some levels and a much healthier discourse in general around employment equality, as a nation, we have a long way to go.

“According to the ESRI, the gender pay gap stood at 14.7% in 2000, so in 20 plus years, there has been relatively little change in the basic wage gap in Ireland.”

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