Written Answers. - Gender Equality on State Boards.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

260 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the Government is committed to the principle of equal representation for women on State boards in view of a number of recent appointments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13110/02]

The Government decided in March 1993, that Ministers should endeavour to have a minimum of 40% of both men and women among the chairs of boards of State bodies and among other persons nominated by Ministers to state bodies under their aegis. The Government further decided that all Ministers should advise bodies nominating persons to boards under their aegis of the Government's gender balance policy and ask them formally to follow a similar practice. The Government decision was issued to all Departments as guidelines which were further extended in March, 1995 to include advisory committees, visiting committees, committees of a temporary nature etc.

Each Minister is responsible for implementing the Government's gender balance policy in his or her own area. My Department monitors the progress in appointing women to State boards on a quarterly basis and constantly keeps the situation under review.

Substantial progress has been made since 1992 on gender balance on boards. Women's representation in all appointments, including external nominations from nominating bodies, increased from 15% in 1992 to 29% at 31 March, 2002 and from 17% to 35% of Ministerial nominations in the same period.

One of the reasons for the imbalance between men and women on State boards is that women have not yet reached top management levels in significant numbers in many areas. Recent research on gender equality in the Civil Service demonstrates this. The NDP gender equality unit in my Department is providing funding of €54,922 to the National Women's Council of Ireland to conduct research on the representation of women in decision-making bodies in Ireland. As part of this funding, a debate on women in politics, which was attended by representatives from all political parties, was held on 8 March 2002, International Women's Day. Further outcomes of this work will include a research report, and a photographic exhibition of women in decision-making bodies.

The NDP gender equality unit also promotes gender balance on monitoring committees which oversee spending under the National Development Plan 2000-2006. The unit actively monitors the representation of women on these committees, and has also provided guidance to monitoring committees interested in increasing their female representation.

While significant progress has been made towards the target of a minimum of 40% of both men and women on State boards, I am anxious to close the remaining 5% deficit in ministerial nominations and 11% deficit in overall nominations. The Government is committed to the principle of a minimum target of 40% representation of both women and men on state boards and has declared its commitment to achieving this target in the programme for Government. I will examine this issue with a view to formulating pro posals to put before Government as soon as is practicable.