Monday 20 January 2020

RTE's Martina: 'Irish firms should reveal their stats on gender pay gap'

CONVERSATION: RTE’s political correspondent Martina Fitzgerald is keen to see the evidence of pay discrepancies between male and female workers. Photo: Tony Gavin
CONVERSATION: RTE’s political correspondent Martina Fitzgerald is keen to see the evidence of pay discrepancies between male and female workers. Photo: Tony Gavin
Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

RTE's political correspondent, Martina Fitzgerald, said she is very much "looking forward" to new measures which would force Irish companies to publish pay discrepancies between male and female workers in their workforce.

The journalist said the official figures on the gender pay gap were wholly unacceptable and she, like any inquisitive woman, would be "curious" about the figures in Ireland's leading companies.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent this weekend at the annual UCD festival, Ms Fitzgerald said: "There is a big international conversation happening at the moment about the gender pay gap and they are moving towards publishing the statistics in Europe.

"I, like any working woman, would welcome that.

"I would be very curious to see those statistics. Who wouldn't?

"Even last week the national figures on the pay gap in Ireland were released and they're not acceptable. I don't know anyone who could say they are."

Irish women earn almost 14pc less than men, according to the most up-to-date EU figures.

The figure equates to women in full-time employment working for free one month every year, or almost four years of their working life.

Legislation in countries including Belgium, where the country has a pay gap of just under 7pc, has been effective. Now Ireland wants to follow the move.

Under a new bill put forward by the Labour Party, companies would be forced to publish the difference between male and female employees by hourly rates and bonus pay.

The figures would be published once a year and the proposal has been met with widespread approval.

Asked if she felt the gender pay gap affected her personally, Ms Fitzgerald said: "I don't think anyone can answer that question because we don't have the information.

"We only have headline figures, so we can't make assumptions and I am just really curious. I also think it is really positive that things are moving in the right direction."

The journalist also spoke for the first time about the spate of outrageous interruptions she experienced as she delivered live updates outside the Dail.

In one incident, the Montrose broadcaster's report fell foul of a teenage lout who lunged forward in front of the TV camera on the main evening news, exclaiming a crude sexual obscenity.

To her credit, Ms Fitzgerald maintained her composure and completed her report. "I thought it was very vulgar and very unsavoury," she said.

Later that night, one person was quick to ask her about the incident.

She explained: "I ran into the Taoiseach at the gate [of Leinster House] and he asked me about it and I just smiled."

On the experience, she said: "I didn't see him [the man who had interrupted her report] coming but I was so focused on breaking the story that nothing was going to deter me."

Despite making her living as one of RTE's top broadcasters, Ms Fitzgerald has had to overcome a "crippling fear of public speaking".

On her university days, she said: "I wasn't confident enough to get up there and I was very self-conscious."

She decided to tackle her fear head on.

Now, as a well-known face on Irish TV, she has to deal with constant questions about her wardrobe from viewers who seem to treat the news more like a personal shopping channel.

"Most weeks I get someone contacting me to ask what I'm wearing and where they can get it," she said.

"It could be a coat, a jacket, a dress or scarf. People can stop you on the street and ask you, or sometimes in the Dail people can ask you.

"I doubt a male counterpart would get the same level of comment but that's a fact of life in the job for women on television and for female politicians.

"Most people are complimentary and I try to be helpful."

Sunday Independent

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