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Ministers Flanagan and Stanton welcome progress made on a range of measures to promote greater gender equality

  • New statistics from Balance for Better Business shows that female representation on ISEQ 20 boards exceeds target but there is still room for improvement
  • National Strategy for Women and Girls records achievements in key areas such as health, family leave and farming
  • Enactment of Parent’s Leave and Benefit Act 2019 which provides two weeks paid parents leave for each parent of a child under one.
  • Ratification of Istanbul Convention on domestic violence and publication of gender pay reporting legislation.
  • Citizens Assembly on Gender Equality convened first meeting on 25 January 2020
  • Ireland to be represented at the 64th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women to take place on Monday, 9 March


Saturday 7th March 2020


The Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan, T.D., and his colleague, the Minister of State with responsibility for Immigration, Equality and Integration, David Stanton, T.D., today welcomed progress in relation to a range of measures to promote greater gender equality to coincide with International Women’s Day tomorrow, Sunday 8th March. 


This year’s theme is “I am Generation Equality: Realising Women’s Rights”


Minister Flanagan noted:


I was delighted in the last year to secure the ratification of the Istanbul Convention which aims to prevent domestic violence, and to introduce legislation to provide for gender pay reporting, which I hope will be reintroduced to the new Dáil. 


“The Government has also supported industry-led employment initiatives such as Balance for Better Business, the 30% Club and regional networks for women in farming.  The Government is working hard to deliver the supports that women and girls around Ireland need.”


The Government-sponsored "Balance for Better Business” initiative has reported that positive change is happening in relation to gender balance on corporate boards and in senior management of companies. Female representation on ISEQ 20 boards is now 26.3% which exceeds the interim target by the end of 2020 set by the “Balance for Better Business” Review Group.


Minister Flanagan, noting the latest statistics, said:


“While welcoming these improvements, Ireland is still 2.8 percentage points behind the average in terms of women on company boards for the largest companies in the EU. There is still a substantial distance to travel for Irish businesses to be gender inclusive, and not all businesses have accepted that they need to change.


“There is a very strong case for gender balance in corporate leadership and corporate decision making, and Irish businesses can and must do better.  I am delighted that in contrast, a 40% representation has been achieved and sustained on Irish State Boards.”


The Government also supports the work of the 30% Club, the Irish Chapter of which continued to advance its mission of better equipping future female leaders through the launch of its 2020 scholarship programme in February of this year.


Minister Flanagan also welcomed the launch of the new step-down facility from prison for female offenders, which is being operated by Focus Ireland with clients in residence. The Minister also noted the launch of three-year Strategic Partnership with the International Red Cross, for €1.5 million annually, to support work on the protection and empowerment of women and girls in humanitarian crises.  


The Government, cognisant of the needs of working parents, also introduced a range of legislative reforms that are aimed at enabling them to spend more time with their children. In 2017, the duration of maternity leave and benefit where a baby is born prematurely was extended. In September 2019, Parental Leave was increased from 18 weeks to 26 weeks and the age limit of the child was increased to 13. And since November 2019, new parents are entitled to two weeks each of the new Parent’s Leave and Benefit, to be taken within the first year of a child’s life.


The Citizens Assembly on Gender Equality, chaired by by Dr. Catherine Day, former Secretary General of the European Commission, and tasked with advancing gender equality, convened its first meeting on 25 January 2020.


Progress is continuing on implementing the actions contained in the National Strategy for Women and Girls 2017-2020 (NSWG).


Minister Stanton, who chairs the NSWG Steering Group, said:


“The achievements under the Strategy reflect the work that is happening across Government to promote women’s equality across a diversity of identities and situations. The aim is that, once the Strategy concludes at the end of 2020, there will be greater equality for women and girls. It is an important step towards an Ireland where all women enjoy equality with men and can achieve their full potential while enjoying a safe and fulfilling life.


“I look forward also to the conclusions of the citizens’ assembly on gender equality which should help to set the agenda for a new Strategy.”


Although curtailed in light of current health concerns, Ireland will be represented at the 64th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (which takes place on 9 March). The main focus of the session will be on the review and appraisal of the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcomes of the 23rd special session of the General Assembly. The report of Ireland's comprehensive national-level review was submitted to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe in June 2019 and this report, along with the reports of other national and regional reviews, have fed into the global review.




Notes for Editors


Better Balance for Business initiative


In July 2018, the Taoiseach launched the ‘Balance for Better Business’ initiative. This is an independent business-led Review Group established by the Government to improve gender balance in senior business leadership in Ireland. The review group is supported by a wider ‘advisory group’, which consists of high level executives and CEOs. The Review Group is also supported in its work by the Department of Justice and Equality and by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation. For further information please see



The National Strategy for Women’s and Girls 2017-2020 (NSWG)


The National Strategy provides a whole-of-Government framework through which women’s empowerment continues to be advanced, reflecting the Government's commitments under the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995) and the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2016). The overall goal for the Strategy in the period to 2020 is "to change attitudes and practices preventing women's and girls' full participation in education, employment and public life, at all levels, and to improve services for women and girls, with priority given to the needs of those experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, the poorest outcomes".


The first progress report under the NSWG was submitted to Government and published in March 2019. As of November 2019, work had begun on 130 of the initial 139 actions, of which 30 had been completed.


An independent evaluation of the Strategy will be carried out in 2021.



Citizens Assembly on Gender Equality


The establishment of the first Citizens' Assembly on gender equality was approved by the Dáil on 9 July and by the Seanad on 11 July. The Citizens' Assemblies Act 2019 providing for the use of the register of electors to select members for Citizens' Assemblies was subsequently enacted and signed into law by the President on 25 July.


For further information on the Citizens Assembly on Gender Equality, please see:



The 30% club initiative for the Civil and Public Service - 30% Club Ireland


The 30% Club Ireland officially launched in January 2015, with a goal to achieve better gender balance at all levels in leading Irish businesses. It believes that gender balance on boards and executive leadership not only encourages better leadership and governance, but further contributes to better all-round board performance, and ultimately increased corporate performance for both companies and their shareholders.  The initiative is complementary to individual company efforts and existing networking groups, adding to these through collaboration and the visible commitment of senior business leaders. Over 200 Irish Chairs and CEOs of leading businesses are supporters of the 30% Club Ireland.


For further information on the 30% clib initiative, please see:



Gender Pay Gap


The gender pay gap in Ireland was 14.4% in 2017, the most recent year for which figures are currently available. These figures were published in February 2020, please see:


A public consultation was launched on 9 August 2017 by Minister Flanagan and Minister of State Stanton on measures to address the gender pay gap.


Of the 38 submissions received, the top five factors cited were:


•             Non-transparency of pay structures

•             Women and caring responsibilities

•             Unconscious bias

•             Occupational/sectoral gender segregation

•             Childcare


The results of the public consultation were discussed at a national symposium hosted on 10 January 2018 by Ministers Flanagan and Stanton and attended by over 130 people.  The symposium was addressed by the Ministers, Minister of State Stanton, academics and other experts, and representatives of the social partners, civil society, and professional bodies.


The Gender Pay Gap Information Bill was published and presented to Dáil Éireann on 8 April 2019. The Bill passed Second Stage on 14 May 2019, and Committee Stage on 27 June 2019 and was awaiting Report Stage when the Dáil was dissolved in January 2020.