Monday, 8 March 2021
International Women's Day: Statements
It is great to see Senator O'Loughlin in the Chair today. I have been sitting in on this debate since it started and I have been so moved by the contributions from my friends on both sides of the House. The debate has been enjoyable. There have been so many different perspectives on International Women's Day and I have dwelled on them. I thank my wonderful, beautiful colleagues for their contributions.
We have all heard the statistics on the gender-pay gap and women working two months for free every year but we do very little about it. As Senator Dolan outlined, in the state of Ontario in Canada they have brought in significant legislation on recruitment such as pay-transparency legislation. It increases the transparency in hiring practices, so when a company advertises for a position, it must clearly state the salary. It is illegal not to do so. There is also a bar on asking candidates what their previous salary was. They also have a framework for tracking and reporting the wages of both men and women, in the same way that we do. The pay-transparency measure is a huge step.
We all clapped when we heard there would be special legislation that would allow us to work at home, but we must be cautious when we consider legislation for working at home because of what was described in an article in The Irish Times as women's invisible jobs, which is generally caring for children and managing the household. We will probably flock towards the idea of working from home but sometimes it might be to the detriment of younger women who are not already established in their career. We must be careful and put proper safeguards in place to ensure that women are not taking a step backwards by working at home.We all know in large companies, and even around Leinster House, that if one is not in every day making connections and building a network then one will fall behind. It is imperative that we do something and ensure that this does not happen.
I pay tribute to all the women who participated in the Repeal campaign, the women in the mother and baby homes, and the women involved in campaigning for assisted human reproduction. I thank them for being a strong voice, for campaigning and we have so much to do.
As lots of colleagues around here have said, and I am a mother of two children, the Seanad will sit for an hour later today so I must change plans and every minute of my day is planned. So one must be mindful in this House and in every house of childcare, and the State needs to provide childcare for free. In March, we gave a little hat tip to free child care because the State paid childcare for month but then cut it off completely. We need to revisit providing free childcare and the issue should come within the ambit of the Department of Education. The Government must listen to women and take childcare very seriously.