There are no specific strategies for the cultural labour market to support women as professionals. The government set a target back in 1993 that all State boards should have a representation of at least 40% of each gender. The National Strategy for Women and Girls 2017-2020 published by the Department of Justice and Equality in 2017 is the framework through which the Government will attempt to advance the rights of women and girls and to enable their full participation in Irish society. In 2017, women constituted 38% of board members according to the National Strategy for Women and Girls 2017-2020. However, according to a recent gender balance survey conducted by the Central Statistics Office the figure for total female appointment to boards is lower at just 30%. Only one in nine CEO’s in large enterprises in Ireland are women according to the CSO Gender Balance in Business Survey of 2019. Publicly funded cultural institutions have overall representation of 36% women on their boards.
The Employment Equality Act (1998), which came into operation in 1999, repeals and replaces the Anti-Discrimination (Pay) Act (1974) and the Employment Equality Act (1977). Discrimination in employment is outlawed by the act on nine distinct grounds: gender, family status, marital status, age, disability, sexual orientation, religion, race, or membership of the traveller community. The wide scope of the legislation covers discrimination in relation to: access to employment, advertising, conditions of employment, equal pay for work of equal value, promotion, collective agreements, training, and work experience. Discrimination in these areas is outlawed whether by an employer, an employment agency, a trades union, a professional body, a vocational training body or within newspaper advertising jobs. The Act gives protection to employees both in the public and private sector as well as applicants for employment and training. It also allows an employer to put in place positive action measures to promote equal opportunities on gender grounds. This legislation is guided and supported by the Equality Authority as well as the Human Rights Commission. However cases of discrimination are decided upon by the Office of the Director of Equality Investigation.
Women artists and arts workers across a range of disciplines continue to encounter barriers to advancing their careers compared to their male counterparts. The recent emergence of artist led movements such as Waking the Feminists, Sounding the Feminists and Fair Plé have evidenced this. Waking the Feminists was formed in 2015 by artists in response to a male-dominated programme for the 1916 Rising centenary at the Abbey Theatre. With advocacy support from the department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht a number of leading theatre organisations in Ireland worked together to initiate and formalise a position on gender policy. Over two years from 2016-2018, the companies engaged in a series of discussions that resulted in each organisation forming its own gender policy statement with reference to a common desire for reform. The Arts Council responded further with the production of its own Equality, Human Rights and Diversity Policy in 2019. The accompanying action plan is the first of its kind put forward by the council. Action 2.2. of the plan commits the council to “publish aggregate information on award applicants and recipients with an immediate focus on gender…” with annual reports on gender statistics published on their website. Policy Action 4.2 requires strategically funded organisations to ensure their boards are gender balanced.
Screen Ireland has engaged a new strategic focus on gender equality in their strategic plan with a six-point plan. The strategy demonstrates a proactive approach as demonstrated by the accompanying programme of actions, including new production and training schemes specifically for female creative talent. In 2018, the Department of Arts Heritage and Gaeltacht launched the Countess Markievicz Award for Irish female artists. At EUR 20,000, it is the largest fund available to individual artists in Ireland. The purpose of the award is to honour Countess Constance de Markievicz who was an artist and radical historical figure in Ireland at the beginning of the twentieth century. She was the first woman to be elected to parliament. When the new award was first announced by the Minister it appeared that it was open to women, but this was later reframed as an award to provide support for artists from all backgrounds and genres to buy time and space in order to develop new work that reflects on the role of women in the period covered by the decade of centenaries 2012-23, and beyond.
 Department of Justice and Equality (2017) National Strategy for Women and Girls 2017-2020: Creating a Better Society for All.
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