Citizens’ Assembly told Gender Quotas for State and Company Boards Need Statutory Backing

Legislative Change Needed to Enforce Equal Pay, and State Must Address High Childcare Costs Blocking Parents from Workplaces

 The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (“the Commission”) has today recommended to the Citizen Assembly that significant State action is needed to break down barriers to achieving gender equality in Ireland.

Among its recommendations, the Commission sets out the need for a new system of statutory gender quotas for company board membership, with appropriate scaling to the size and revenue of the business.  This recommendation comes as CSO statistics for 2019 show only 1 in 9 CEO’s of large enterprises is a woman, and show women making up less than 1 in 5 of general board membership, dropping to 1 in almost 13 in the construction sector. Across the EU, the 6 countries with existing binding quotas see almost 1 in 3 board members being women across all companies covered.

In its recommendations delivered just ahead of International Women’s Day (March 8) the Commission further calls for Ireland’s current employment equality law to be reformed to enforce the principle of equal pay for work of equal pay in Ireland. The Commission also challenges “ongoing deficiencies” which see Ireland’s high childcare costs acting as a barrier to women’s participation in employment.

The Commission makes its recommendations as Ireland’s national human right institution and national equality body.

Professor Caroline Fennell, Acting Chief Commissioner, Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission stated today:

“In public life, whether within the professions, business, sport or politics there are historic and persisting barriers to gender equality. There are also new and menacing challenges such as gender focused online harassment, all of which needs to be tackled head-on.

“The timing of this Citizens’ Assembly specifically focused on achieving gender equality affords a real opportunity to create political momentum to tackle inequalities, and this work must inform the agenda of any new government.”

The Commission makes 32 recommendations across the four areas of concern to the Citizens’ Assembly, these include:

On Women in Political and Public Life

  • A system of gender quotas for company board memberships should be developed and placed on a statutory basis. There should be appropriate scaling to the size and revenue of the business. Gender balance on State Boards also need a statutory footing.
  • A new electoral commission should engage groups facing barriers to electoral participation, with political parties monitored on their efforts in gender recruitment practices. The Judicial Council should also take measures to increase representation of women in the judiciary.

On Gender and Decent Work

  • Legislative reform is necessary to enforce the principle of equal pay for work of equal value in Ireland, as it remains difficult under existing law to prove an individual equal pay claim.
  • Significant gender inequality persists in Ireland’s employment system relating to pay and pension gaps, but also occupational and hierarchical segregation.

On Gender and Care Work

  • High costs of childcare in Ireland need to be addressed with a view to providing adequate financial supports, and State-delivered subsidies that ensure quality and accessible childcare.
  • The State should review the free pre-school year scheme currently in effect, particularly the part-time nature of the scheme and its potential impact on reducing women’s greater participation in the labour force.

On Gender Norms and Stereotypes

  • Article 41.2 of the Constitution (on the role of women) should be amended to recognise and support care work, make it gender neutral and include a reference to ‘family life’, and Article 41, including 41.3.1, be amended to recognise the broader conception of family life recognised under international human rights law.
  • State leadership is needed to develop a comprehensive regulatory framework to combat hate speech including misogynist speech. Proposed reform of harassment laws need to account for legal responses to cyber harassment and abuse.




For further information, please contact:

Karen Joynt

01 858 9605 / 085 174 6883

Follow us on twitter @_IHREC


Notes to editor:

The Commission’s full submission to the Citizen’s Assembly on Gender Equality is available here.


Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is an independent public body, appointed by the President and directly accountable to the Oireachtas. The Commission has a statutory remit set out under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act (2014) to protect and promote human rights and equality in Ireland, and build a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding in the State.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is Ireland’s national human rights institution and is recognised as such by the United Nations. The Commission is also Ireland’s national equality body for the purpose of a range of EU anti-discrimination measures.