Bridging the gender pay gap – start with childcare.

Katie Gallagher

Credit NYT (New York times)

Gender pay gaps do little to address equality, and according to a Fianna Fáil Senator progress will not be made in Ireland until the current childcare crisis is addressed.

The latest PwC Women in Work Index furthers highlights the challenges childcare failures cause women in the workplace in Ireland, according to Senator Lorraine Clifford Lee.

“The whole issue of childcare is a massive, massive issue and until this is addressed I don’t think we are going to see the gender pay gap closing very much,” said Clifford Lee.

She explained that due to the cost, coordination and availability of childcare, women have to take time out of the workforce and then re-enter a number of years later, making them fall down the ladder.

“Their careers are set back permanently and they never make up that gap. That’s having a huge impact on their own financial stability but their own kind of mentality as well,” she said.

“So, what we are doing is educating women and equipping them with skills, and then very high skilled people are suddenly leaving the workforce, and are permanently stunted back in the workforce and beyond that,” she continued.

This issue is echoed in the research where PwC economists identified the underlying key drivers of the gender pay gap across all OECD countries.

“The results show larger government spending on family benefits significantly pushes down the gender pay gap, which suggests that greater availability of affordable childcare could improve female participation in the workforce by helping parents, especially mothers, return to work,” the PwC site said.

PwC Midlands Regional Chairman Matthew Hammond suggested shared parental leave incentives.

“It is important to provide greater flexibility so that part-time working isn’t the default option, and encouraging more men to take up shared parental leave, so that it’s not always women who take extended breaks from the workplace,” he said.

However, the Senator, who is a spokesperson on Justice, Children and Youth Affairs stated that women who don’t have children are still facing a gender pay gap.

“There are things that need to change in relation to mentoring, in relation to corporate culture changing and naming and shaming companies. And also having a pay audit on companies and calling companies out that have gender pay gaps,” she said.

EU figures show that women in Ireland currently earn around 13.9 per cent less than men. This figure translates that women working full time work one month for free in Ireland every year.

While this is better than the equivalent gap in the UK of 19.5 per cent, the councillor said that not only does a pay gap create a huge impact on women’s financial stability, but it also affects their mentality.

With the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap report findings suggesting that gender parity is over 200 years away, International Women’s day 2018 chose #PressforProgress as their campaign theme.

They said that with global activism for women’s equality being fuelled by movements like #MeToo, #TimesUp, there is a strong call to action to press forward and strive for gender parity.