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Speech of An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar T.D. at the Launch of the Gender Equality in Higher Education Taskforce Action Plan, 12 November 2018


Issued by the Government Press Office
12 November 2018

Check Against Delivery

Good morning everyone.

I would like to begin by thanking my colleague, Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor, for the invitation to speak here this morning. Without your leadership, your dedication to this issue, and your determination we would not be here today. Thank you.

I would also like to thank the Taskforce. Because of your work we have a document that offers the two most powerful things in politics: hope that we can make things better; and a roadmap for achieving it.

Gender inequality is a deeply ingrained in our society. Misogyny has been our culture for millennia. It’s been holding us back for too long. Women make up half our population, half our talent, half our expertise. They are our greatest untapped resource. So, it is self-evident we need a culture-change. We need to ensure that all organisations recognise that diversity and broad representation leads to better decision-making and a more productive environment and workforce.

I am pleased to be able to say that one of the hallmarks of this Government has been our leadership on issues of equality and diversity. We showed our commitment on a national scale with the marriage equality referendum, making a powerful statement about our values, and how we treat those who were historically marginalised. We have progressive gender recognition legislation.This year we removed the 8th amendment from our Constitution, in a campaign that was notable for its maturity, and the way we listened to stories which had have previously been silenced.

We are not finished yet. In fact, we are only getting started.

1. We have published a Gender Pay Gap (Wage Transparency) Bill requiring employers to publish information on the differences in pay between men and women.
2. We will introduce an additional two weeks paid parental leave for both parents.
3. We have established a Review Group to promote Gender Balance on State Boards. Last year 52% of people appointed to State Boards through the Public Appointments System were female.
4. And the Affordable Childcare Scheme will improve the availability and cost of childcare, with increased subsidies for low income families and many middle income families benefitting for the first time.
5. Gender candidate quotas for Dáil Elections, now at 30% will rise to 40% in the next decade.

These initiatives are designed to ensure we lay the foundations to enable true equality of opportunity for all in our society.

This Action Plan will improve gender equality in Irish Higher Education Institutions because it offers practical solutions to achieving our goals. These include gender-proofing recruitment and promotion, and the introduction of a female-specific professor programme to accelerate the rate of progress. Our education system is the beginning of everything: knowledge, self-awareness, social cohesion, creativity, and entrepreneurship. Without an effective and inclusive education system we will never have a society that is truly free.

Role models remind students that anything is possible. They encourage and inspire us to reach our potential. To aim high. In particular, I want girls to aim high. Every great act of imagination requires a follow-up action. We must first imagine the kind of society we want to live in, and then we have to work to achieve it.

This action plan provides our starting point for accelerating gender equality in Higher Education Institutions.

As the former Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki Moon put it, ‘achieving Gender Equality requires the engagement of women and men, girls and boys. It is everyone’s responsibility’.

Thank you.