| 7.4°C Dublin

Is it now time for the feminists to ditch the marching boots? NO WAY: The fight is very far from over

Women who believe that the feminist movement is outmoded need to make themselves aware of the findings in this report.

Those gains that have been made over decades, especially in pay and employment, need to be guarded. And women's better performance in education ought to be better reflected in pay and opportunities.

The differences between boys and girls in education are striking. About 14pc of boys drop out of school early compared with 9pc of girls. Last year, half of all women aged 25 to 34 had degrees compared with 39pc of men.

But, despite their higher level of education, women's earnings per hour are 87pc of men's and that figure takes account of the fact that men work longer hours.

That difference in earnings reflects the fact that men are more likely than women to occupy the better paid jobs.

For instance, only one third of consultants in medicine and dentistry are women, though 80pc of the health sector workforce is female.

The most blatant differences are found in education. The over-whelming majority of primary teachers -- 84pc -- are women but they account for only 48pc of school managers.

In Dail Eireann women, who form 50pc of the population, account for only 14pc of TDs.

Is this the old boy's club at work? No doubt remnants of the old boy's club remain. Old attitudes haven't gone away. It was only a few months ago that Portmarnock Golf Club concluded a successful court battle with the Equality Authority to defend its right to exclude women as full members.

The major obstacle facing women in the workplace, I believe, is the fact that they are the ones who have the babies and, (often after the second child is born) who interrupt their careers to raise their children.

Part of the reason for that, surely, is that workplaces -- including female colleagues -- are not particularly friendly towards mothers who have to drop everything to cope with emergencies.


The creation of family-friendly workplaces is one area in which women, whether they regard themselves as feminists or not, need to go on fighting for an environment that makes true equality feasible.

Women also need to be vigilant. Last year a test was introduced for entry to medical education which reduced female candidates' chances of getting in. Was there a squeak of protest? I didn't hear it.

The gains made so far took hard work over decades by women and men who believed in gender equality.

What this week's figures show is that the fight is far from over.