November 4th, 2019: 85% of people in Ireland say that becoming a parent impacts a woman’s career progression opportunities.

Findings from the 2019 Matrix Recruitment Workplace Equality Survey of 2,070 adults also showed that 42% of people have experienced workplace discrimination.

Parenting impacts a woman’s career progression

When it comes to career progression, 76% of men and 90% of women say that becoming a mum impacts a woman’s career progression opportunities, which is a startling finding according to Joanne Foley of Matrix Recruitment. “If a woman chooses to advance her career, her opportunities should not be hindered by parenthood and a greater effort from industry, society and government may be needed to make this happen.  Some progress has already been made in this area, but the cost of childcare and the prevailing perceptions around motherhood are creating barriers that still need to be addressed,” said Joanne Foley.



Slow uptake of paternity leave

On the subject of paternity leave, 68% of survey respondents say that men are reluctant to avail of their entitlement with the majority (62%), indicating that taking statutory leave could reflect on their commitment to their employer or their work.  More than half (53%) of those surveyed said that fathers taking paternity leave would be the ‘exception rather than the norm’ and one third (33%), said that men didn’t see the need for paternity leave at all. “These findings point to the belief that the mother’s role is still that of primary carer and we could still be a generation away from men feeling comfortable and secure enough to take their full parental leave entitlement.  There are obviously financial implications too, but I do think that we are seeing a cultural change, albeit a slow one, with a number of employers actively taking steps to promote and support leave entitlements,” said Joanne Foley.

Workplace sexual harassement – 8% drop

The first Matrix Recruitment Workplace Equality Survey was undertaken in 2018 when 44% of adults reported experiencing discrimination in the workplace.  The 2019 survey saw a percentage drop of just 2% to 42%.  According to the new findings, workplace discrimination is experienced by 48% of women, 34% of men and 53% of people who identify as non-binary. In last year’s survey, 18% of respondents said they had suffered sexual harassment at work, with the more recent survey reporting the figure at 10%.

“This is a significant finding and may indicate that campaigns tackling sexual harassment are having an impact,” said Matrix Recruitment’s Joanne Foley. “Earlier this year, the government launched its No Excuses campaign to help tackle the issue.  The #MeToo movement has reached global proportions, raising huge levels of awareness and potentially driving behavioural change. In addition, there is widespread coverage of the issue in the media with conversations being held daily on social media. “Whilst we cannot say with absolute certainty that the cumulative effect of these campaigns is proving to be effective and while we know that there is still a long way to go, the findings may point to the positive impact of the campaign, leading to a fall in the incidence of sexual harassment at work,” said Joanne Foley. The other most common forms of discrimination experienced were discrimination on the basis of gender (21%),  being expected to work late because of not having children (15%) and being excluded because of age (10%).

Almost one in three survey respondents (32%) have had specialist equality and discrimination training in work and most people in Ireland (89%), believe that employers have a responsibility to their staff to offer training in these areas.

Gender Equality 2019 workplace

Ageism – fewer opportunities for over 50s?

According to the Matrix Recruitment Workplace Equality Survey 2019, ageism is a growing problem in Ireland’s workplaces with more than two-thirds of respondents (67%) believing this to be the case (up from 64% in 2018).

When it comes to changing jobs beyond the age of 40:

  • One fifth of respondents said that it would be challenging once you reach the age of 40
  • 22% felt that anyone over the age of 45 would struggle to change jobs and
  • 31% stated that 50 is the age at which workers would have problems changing jobs.

“What does it tell us about Ireland’s work culture if people perceive that it will be difficult to change jobs once you hit 45,” said Joanne Foley.  “People are living longer, the statutory age for retirement is increasing and age should never be a barrier to moving jobs, particularly with so many employers placing a huge value on experience.”

“At Matrix Recruitment, we encourage client companies to remain open-minded about potential jobs candidates, and not pinpoint age as a consideration when hiring.”

On a more positive note, 92% of those surveyed felt that people over 50 have a lot to contribute to the working environment as they will have many more years of experience and three quarters say that they will have more life skills. Being able to mentor younger colleagues is seen as a real benefit and one third say that workers over 50 will spend less time on social media.

Ageism workplace

Gender pay gap persists in the workplace

One in four (25%) workers in Ireland knows of a colleague of the opposite sex, but in the same role and with the same level of responsibility, receiving a higher salary, which is consistent with last year’s findings.  This pay discrimination was reported by 26% of women and 20% of men.

When asked how they would deal with this revelation, reactions varied:

  • More than half (52%) said that they would address the issue with their manager
  • 15% would seek a pay rise
  • 13% would actively look for another job, while 12% would consider leaving if another job came along, and
  • 6% would do nothing

“The prevalence of the gender pay gap has not altered since the 2018 survey.  This indicates that the gap is not closing at an acceptable rate and that Ireland may still be struggling with the most basic issues around equality in the workplace,” said Joanne Foley.

Country divided over gender quotas at board level

In line with the 2018 survey findings, 59% of people agree with the principle of gender quotas in the workplace (66% of women v 43% of men). However, while the gender quota principle received support, almost 88% of people agreed that gender should not influence promotions, job offers or salary, all of which should be offered on merit. Opinion is divided on whether companies should enforce gender quotas at senior management or board level with just over half (52%) of respondents saying that quotas should be enforced. 48% felt that there should be no enforcement at senior level. In 2018, 17% of people said that gender quotas would never be achieved.  This has fallen ten percentage points to just 7% in 2019, which indicates that more people in Ireland believe that it is achievable, but the next question is, when?

More promotional opportunities for men?

When asked about promotional opportunities in the workplace, 61% of men responded that men and women had equal opportunities. Conversely, 63% of women and 55% of people who identified as non-binary said that men benefited from greater promotional opportunities.  These findings are broadly in line with the 2018 survey but point to distinct discrepancies between the views and perceptions of men and women in the workplace.

Glass ceiling not yet broken in the workplace

Regarded as a barrier to advancement that usually affects women or minorities, 69% of people in Ireland say that the glass ceiling still exists for women in the workplace. Twice as many women as men believe this to be the case.  Notwithstanding these findings, 44% of respondents stated that things are improving, giving some cause for optimism, in the long-term.   A further minor note of optimism was sounded by the 24% of respondents who said that there was a glass ceiling in their own workplace, a fall of 6% since the 2018 survey.

glass ceiling workplace

More people want Gender-neutral bathrooms

More than one-third (34%) of people in Ireland would like gender-neutral bathrooms at work (up from 26% in 2018), while 66% say that they are against them.  67% of non-binary respondents would like to see gender-neutral bathrooms in workplaces in Ireland.  “This was an interesting finding, particularly given the age profile of the survey respondents, 68% of whom were under the age of 40,” said Joanne Foley.  “Whilst age may not necessarily influence your view, it seems that Ireland’s workers are not yet ready to relinquish binary bathrooms.” According to Joanne, this now annual survey is important, as it helps benchmark and track issues pertaining to inequality and discrimination in the workplace.  In some areas, there has been very little movement since the 2018 survey, which is not unexpected, but in others, such as the reported incidence of sexual harassment at work, there has been a marked decline.  “This shows the impact of people power combined with sound policies and support from industry.  As a recruitment team dealing with both jobseekers and employers on a daily basis, this is quite heartening, but I hope that we will see even more movement in the coming years, so that we can ultimately reach full equality in the workplace,” said Joanne.

gender neutral

About the survey

The Matrix Workplace Equality Survey was conducted online in October 2019 among 2,070 people working across a broad range of industries and sectors.

Matrix Recruitment Group is one of Ireland’s leading recruitment firms.  Established in 1998 and with offices in Dublin, Waterford, Carlow and Athlone Matrix specialises in a number of job categories including accountancy, financial services, engineering manufacturing, quality & laboratory, supply chain, HR, office support and sales & marketing.       @Matrixrecruit                #MatrixEquality

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