Inaugural #WorkEqual Conference

27th November 2019

More affordable and accessible childcare and the option for mothers to allocate 50% of their maternity leave to their partners are the top measures needed to achieve gender equality in the workplace.  That’s according to attendees at the inaugural #WorkEqual conference – ‘Practical Steps to Workplace Equality’ – which is taking place in Dublin today (27.11.19).

Now in its third year, #WorkEqual is an annual campaign run by the Dress for Success Dublin (DfSD) charity, which aims to raise awareness about gender inequalities in the workplace.  An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar TD, gave the opening address at the inaugural #WorkEqual conference today, which is also hearing from guest speakers from Iceland and the UK, as well as a range of Irish contributors.

In advance of the conference, attendees and wider stakeholders were surveyed on the measures that could be taken to promote greater gender equality in the workplace.  Survey respondents were presented with potential measures, and asked to rate them in order of their likely impact.

Respondents picked more affordable and accessible childcare as the measure that would have the greatest impact in achieving workplace equality.  This was followed by the introduction of optional shared parental leave in the first year of a baby’s life, whereby the mother could allocate 50% of her maternity leave entitlement to her partner, if desired.  Not surprisingly, gender pay gap transparency, greater uptake of paternity leave and career support structures for women during and after maternity leave were ranked highly in the survey.

Speaking at the #WorkEqual event, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: “The Government is determined to promote and encourage workplace equality. We’re increasing State subsidies for childcare to make it more affordable, improving parental leave entitlements and we’re enacting new legislation aimed at closing the gender pay gap.”

He went on to mention other initiatives like ‘returnships’ and the government’s ‘Balance for Better Business’ initiative as well as the establishment of the Citizens’ Assembly on gender equality; the first meeting of which will be held in January (2020).

Keynote speakers at the #WorkEqual conference include Tatjana Latinovic, Chair of the Icelandic Women’s Rights Association; and British journalist Christine Armstrong, author of ‘The Mother of All Jobs: how to have children, a career and stay sane (ish)’.

In her address, Ms. Latinovic highlighted how Iceland has become recognised as a global leader in gender equality.  “Iceland has been on top of the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index report for the past 10 years running, having closed 85% of the gender gap,” she said. “Not being able to close the gap completely shows that we are still a fundamentally unequal country, but we have come a long way, especially in recent years.”

Speaking in advance of her keynote address, Christine Armstrong said: “It’s time for a different conversation about working, parenting, and the equal division of labour, both in the workplace and in the home.  As our working days get ever longer, the needs of our children and the worlds of school and childcare have not changed at all.  Working parents everywhere are tearing themselves apart, trying to balance the needs of their families with the needs of their careers and, too often, feeling like they are failing.  This needs to change.”

The #WorkEqual conference which is sponsored by SOLAS, the Further Education and Training Authority, is run by DfSD, the charity behind the #WorkEqual campaign. Speaking from the conference, Sonya Lennon, founder of DfSD, said: “Today is all about developing practical, tangible recommendations to achieve workplace equality.  We all know about the huge benefits that accrue – both societally and commercially – when women are able to access work and progress their careers on an equal footing with men.   We also know about the problem areas and the challenges that persist; the obstacles that many women face when it comes to furthering their careers.”

A series of recommendations arising from today’s conference should help drive positive change toward a more equal working environment. To find out more visit here>>