The penultimate edition of The Solutions Series inspires attendees
If you missed our discussion about the value of caring and it’s impact on gender equality, you can catch up with the full recording below.
The fourth edition of The Solutions Series focused on the value society places on caring and how that impacts gender equality, particularly in the workplace.
WorkEqual hosted both global and local gender equality experts and one hour was simply not long enough as our panellists ignited a lively and engaging discussion. Many participants were left wanting more and took to social media to remark how inspiring a session it had been.
WorkEqual founder, Sonya Lennon, opened the discussion by highlighting the recommendations for this topic made by delegates in 2019, all of which can be found in the WorkEqual Conference Report.
Roisin Ingle, columnist and podcaster with The Irish Times, and our MC for the event, highlighted how the Covid-19 pandemic is exposing and amplifying the inequalities that already existed between men and women. Roisin pointed out that despite this many men are also discovering the joys and the value of parenting and care.
Our first speaker of the day was author and professor at Oxford University, Linda Scott. Linda is the founder of the Power Shift Forum and the ‘Double X Economy’, a perspective that describes the global economy of women not just as consumers or workers, but as investors, donors and entrepreneurs.
Linda explained how the biggest burden to women’s economic participation is the burden of care, and that this is not a free choice. The existing infrastructure does not allow for another option.
“After the pandemic, we need to learn to value care so that we redesign our approach to its provision, we need to reframe childcare as economic infrastructure.”
Next, we welcomed Australian Labour MP, Ged Kearney to the WorkEqual stage. Ged outlined how the world is just starting to wake up to the economic value of what we call ‘the care economy’ – what has traditionally been female dominated industries. Ged made a strong economic case for caring subsidies and how they can impact on a country’s economic performance.
“We’ve done a lot of costings on childcare subsidies. For every dollar you put in, at a minimum, you get a dollar back.”
Helen Russell, Research Professor with the Economic and Social Research Institute, provided some statistics on caring in Irish society. Helen highlighted that quantifying care work is a key step in trying to value it. Her research found that women spend on average 21 hours on care work, while men spend 11 hours.
“We need policies that support care needs and encourage men’s take up of care and housework. A greater provision of State-supported childcare is key. There also needs to be better paternal leave and a greater uptake of paternity leave in Ireland.”
CEO of the Men’s Development Network, Sean Cooke, was our final speaker. It was a particularly busy day for Sean as 19th November also marked International Men’s Day so we were delighted to have him join. Sean provided a fantastic insight into how people’s frame of mind changed during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Politicians placed emphasis on care, and careworkers were celebrated as heroes. This needs to translate into wider, longer-term change.”
Sean also pointed out that boys need to be engaged in healthy conversations about gender equality and positive masculinity.
Roisin then addressed Article 41.2 of the Constitution with the panel reaching a consensus and stating it either needs to go or be amended to make it gender neutral.
Dr Michelle Millar, our conference rapporteur, brought the session to a close by stating that childcare is as important as public transport to get to people to work and urged policymakers to think this way.
You can catch the next instalment of The Solutions Series on Thursday, 26th November, when we explore ‘How Can We Address Women’s Under-Representation in Positions of Leadership – at Work and in Wider Society?’ You can register for the event and see the full panel line-up here.