Addressing Gender Inequality in Irish Schools
Like many others I’m sure, I watched reports on Hurricane Ophelia on the news a number of weeks ago. At one stage, Sean Hogan, the director of Fire and Emergency Management introduced men from the National Emergency Coordination Group to speak to the public about the areas under their control. You’ll notice that I say men. It struck me that there wasn’t a single woman to be seen for the entire segment. The Official Twitter Account of the Office of Emergency Planning (OEP) posted a picture entitled “An Taoiseach and Ministers being briefed by the National Emergency Coordination Group on Storm Ophelia and its impacts this morning.” Of the 19 people in the image, there was just one woman. The lack of gender balance was startling.
What kind of message does it send to our society, that in an emergency, very few women are at the decision-making table?
I am not criticising the work of the National Emergency Coordination Group but I think that the question relating to the lack of gender balance in decision-making on this occasion and in other areas of Irish society is an important one to raise and discuss.
The reality is that when it comes to power and decision-making in Irish society, Gender Matters. The National Strategy for Women and Girls 2017-2020, published by the Department of Justice and Equality in April of this year, outlined how women continue to be under-represented in a range of areas including representation on corporate boards (16%) and senior management positions in the financial services sector (20%).
In the area of education, 81% of academic professor positions are filled by men and men also represent 72% of the highest paid non-academic staff. This is despite the fact that women continue to outperform their male counterparts in educational attainment rates. The Women and Men in Ireland 2016 report released recently by the Central Statistics Office confirmed that half (55.1%) of women aged 25-34 having a third-level qualification in 2016 compared to just 42.9% of men in this age group but women are significantly under-represented in decision-making structures in Ireland at both national and regional levels. Less than a quarter (22.2%) of TDs in Dáil Éireann were women in 2016.
Both the Strategy and the CSO report also note that females remain underrepresented in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) type courses and careers and that women and girls continue to be less visible than men and boys in key areas of Irish life, such as in sport or in the arts.
The need for increased opportunities to discuss and address Gender Inequality in Ireland is why Educate Together chose Gender Equality as the topic for this year’s Educate Together Ethical Education Conference.
We owe it to everyone in society to recognise, understand and dismantle the systems that have kept women underpaid in the workforce, under-represented in the arts and under appreciated in sport.
So what can be done? For one thing, awareness that gender inequality is a reality in Ireland needs to be addressed and discussed widely and at every opportunity.
And that can start in our schools. It’s important that teachers and students are prepared to discuss these issues, to critically analyse representations of gender and to challenge gender stereotypes. Educate Together believes that education is one way we can make a difference and make Gender Equality a reality.
As part of this year’s Ethical Education Conference, Educate Together is delighted to have a panel discussion comprising top Irish female athletes, a keynote speaker, Debbie Ging, whose work on gender and social media casts light on one of the most pervasive sites for expressions of misogyny, and a number of workshops that will facilitate discussion on gender equality in the classroom.
Laura Dooley | Bio:
Laura Dooley is the Second-level Education Officer at Educate Together. Her role involves developing the second-level Ethical Education curriculum and providing support to schools to implement it. Laura is a qualified second-level teacher and recently completed her PhD at Dublin City University. Her research involved investigating the views of second-level students on intercultural education and immigration in Ireland. Laura also holds a Masters in Comparative Literature from DCU and a BA in English and Sociology from Maynooth.
The ‘Gender Matters: Educating for Equality’? conference will be held on 24th and 25th November in the Grand Hotel, Malahide, Co. Dublin. It includes a special panel discussion facilitated by Ger Gilroy on ‘Gender Matters in Sport’ with sportswomen Nora Stapleton, Catherina McKiernan, Rachel Ruddy and Sharon Hutchinson. Tickets are available online now: www.educatetogether.ie