FEWER than one in 10 of the top jobs in local government are held by women, the Irish Independent can reveal.
And a survey of the country’s 34 city and county councils shows the vast majority of the highest-paid positions across the local authority system, including county manager, director of service and head of finance, are held by men.
The figures suggest that women are failing to reach the top of the ladder despite decades of high academic achievement and a long career in the sector.
They show there are just three women county managers, compared with 31 men, while females occupy less than 30pc of the highest-paid positions attracting salaries of more than €50,000 a year.
One human resources expert said it suggested the local authority sector was slow to promote women because of a “lack of objectivity” in how candidates were selected for promotion.
Equality Minister Kathleen Lynch admitted that women continued to be under-represented in senior management posts “in almost every sector, including most probably the local authorities”.
Despite the Government planning to introduce gender quotas for the next general election, where at least 30pc of all candidates will have to be women, the pace of change in local authorities remains painfully slow.
However, the Department of the Environment – which funds councils – said it had no role in promoting equality.
Some 28,268 staff are employed in the sector, and the department had no role in determining how councils promoted staff.
“Recruitment of staff is a matter for individual local authorities, and the department has no role in this process,” a spokesman said, adding it was up to local authorities and the Public Appointments Service to choose candidates for senior roles.
iGraphic: Use the interactive map below to see the full breakdown of men and women employed in local government across the country
Some 29 councils provided a full response to the Irish Independent survey. Cork City, Dublin City, Mayo and South Dublin failed to provide a breakdown.
The survey shows:
- At least 10 councils have no women employed at managerial level, including county managers, directors of services and heads of finance.
- They are Cavan, Donegal, Kilkenny, Laois, Longford, Monaghan, North Tipperary, Offaly, Waterford and Westmeath. The positions pay between €85,217 and €175,721.
- Of 2,258 people in positions with a salary of more than €50,000, just 669 are women – or 29pc.
- There are just three female county managers – they are Philomena Poole (Louth), Martina Maloney (Galway County) and Jackie Maguire (Meath).
- The best-performing council is Galway City, where 21 women (44pc) fulfil senior roles.
- But overall, just 20pc of all director of services jobs are held by women, while just 13pc of heads of finance are female.
- Conversely, the vast bulk of the lower-paid positions are held by women. A total of 4,266 grade three and four administrative officers are women, or 83pc, earning between €23,000 and €43,000 a year.
The findings come after a survey last week found that the vast majority (82pc) of Irish company directors believe that women are under-represented on company boards.
Some 42pc said there should be gender quotas.
Ms Lynch insisted that the Government was attempting to address the gender imbalance, but said research suggested “a reluctance among women to advance in their careers”.
She added that she chaired a working group, which was looking at increasing women's representation in leadership roles, adding the Government was committed to promoting equality.
“The advancement of women is taking place, and must continue to take place, across all sectors as we ensure that our very well-educated female population contributes fully to the workforce and to economic growth,” she said.
But equality experts and trade unions cited a lack of transparency and objectivity in selection and promotion practices, with IMPACT spokesman Bernard Harbor describing the lack of promotion opportunities as “discrimination”.
“One reason is that there is just plain discrimination. Although illegal, it certainly does exist – it is the cultural aspect of this gender imbalance,” he said.
“The 2012 Workforce Planning Report by the County and City Managers’ Association says little or nothing about gender imbalance in local authority grades.
It shows that they don’t think gender imbalance is a priority concern,” he added.
The National Women’s Council warned that the lack of women in senior management positions had resulted in poor-decision-making in banks and at government level.
The findings reflect the gender imbalance in Government, where just four of the 30 junior and senior ministries (13pc) are held by women.
Christine Cross, an HR management lecturer in the University of Limerick, warned there was a “lack of transparency and objectivity in selection and promotion practices”.
Management consultant Veronica Canning said that councils needed to make equal participation by women a “priority”, adding there was “no reason” not to introduce a quota.
The Public Appointments Service, which recruits senior management, said appointments were made on merit and it was “ happy that the performance of females in campaigns under its remit is satisfactory”.
By Hannah Popham, Enda Dowling and Paul Melia