Where are the women?

15 percent of the deputies in Dáil Éireann are women. 85 percent are men. Throughout the country 16 percent of the representatives elected to town and county councils are women. 84 percent are men.

The Facts and Stats Calendar 2013 was welcomed by Buncrana Town councillor Michelle Bradley (FG). She said the most shocking statistic she had heard recently was that it will take 300 years for fifty-fifty, male-female equality in Dáil Éireann.

She said: “Democratic countries all across Europe are now employing quotas as a way of ensuring that men and women are represented equally on different fora. I think we need to look at quotas as one possible method of getting women more involved in decision-making bodies at all levels in Irish society.

“I suppose I am not really too surprised by the Women Into Public Life statistics but It is extremely useful to have them at my fingertips on a calendar. Part of the problem of female under-representation arises from the fact that councils are often asked to nominate elected representatives onto various bodies. If there are not enough women on councils, it follows that there will not be enough women on the bodies in question.”

This lack of women in Public Bodies is highlighted on the February page of the Women Into Public Life calendar.

Overall women make up 35 percent of public bodies here. The other 65 percent are men. This statistic can be broken down further. Teagasc the Irish agricultural and food development agency is 18 percent female and 82 percent male. Irish Rural Link is 26 percent female and 58 percent male. FÁS is 19 percent female and 50 percent male. 31 Percent of FÁS’s board is vacant.

The under-representation of women continues right across North-South Implementation Bodies, Cross Border Bodies, Local Bodies, Enterprise and Tourism Bodies, Policing, Education and Area Partnerships.

However, the trend is bucked by the Donegal County Childcare Committee. It is 87 percent female and 13 percent male. The Donegal Education Centre is 71 percent female and 29 percent male.

There are some quirky statistics on the Facts and Stats 2013 calendar. In the Ulster Scotch Board women outnumber men by 57 percent to 43 percent and Invest NI does not have a single woman on its board.

Women Into Public Life, the group responsible for the Facts and Stats 2013 calendar is a partnership between Donegal’s Second Chance Education Project for Women and women’s groups from Derry and Scotland. It aims to address the under-representation of women in public life.

According to Michelle Bradley the progression of women into public life may be stymied by the notion that they have most of the caring responsibilities within families.

She said: “Whether women are caring for children or older people, this role can prevent them from getting involved in decision-making bodies. However, I know that there are public bodies out there which are progressive and have adopted gender equality policies. These will help but women also need to take the leap and put themselves forward. This in turn will encourage other women to follow them into public life.”