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Deirdre Reynolds: Never mind the cakes, show us the money

If businesses want us to part with our hard-earned cash on International Women's Day, maybe they should start by paying us more

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Deirdre Reynolds

Today marks International Women's Day, and the fact that I'm spending it working as usual, shows just how far we've come.

The fact that the theme is 'Break the Bias', in workplaces worldwide among other arenas, shows there's still some way to go.

IWD was first marked back in 1911 when one million women (and their male allies) around the world pounded pavements demanding the right to work, vote and hold public office.

As a celebration of women's achievements in every field from arts to the Áras, naturally, just like Valentine's Day and Mother's Day, it has since become commercialised to the max, because nothing socks it to the gender pay gap and everyday sexism quite like a bottomless brunch, scented candle or bouquet of flowers tenuously hung on the March 8 awareness day.

Although many such companies are giving back to women, by donating some or all of their profits to charity, others are most certainly not while targeting women with themed cupcakes and flash sales in an annual wave of pinkwashing.

Trying to get too clever with 'femvertising' could prove even more controversial, as Brewdog found out when they previously launched a Pink IPA "beer for girls" to satirise the commodification of International Women's Day.

Anyhow, if businesses want us to part with our hard-earned cash to spoil our female friends or colleagues on International Women's Day, maybe they should start by paying us more as a whole.

The most recent Eurostat data from 2019 shows that a gender pay gap of 11.3 per cent persists in Ireland. That's better than the EU average of 14.1 per cent, but nearly nine times higher than the 1.3 per cent gap in Luxembourg.

Not to be confused with equal pay for equal work, which has been enshrined in Irish law since 1975, the gender pay gap refers to the difference between the average hourly wages of men and women across the entire workforce, including the top brass, and reflects the current national state of the glass ceiling.

That just a quarter of Irish companies actually have a GPG policy tells its own story.

Legislation introduced last year means organisations with more than 250 staff here will soon have to report any pay difference between male and female employees - and explain the difference.

It's another step in the right direction, with Britain's gender pay gap closing by almost a fifth since it enacted a similar law in 2017.

But, with the pandemic still disproportionately affecting working women, many of whom have been quite literally left holding the baby, it's not the only way bosses must now prove their commitment to #breakingthebias as offices reopen, or continue to suffer the effects of the Big Quit, which has one in four women considering leaving their career or downshifting their careers versus one in five men, according to one survey.

Fix the infamous "broken rung" that prevents women from climbing the ladder to the male-dominated boardroom to begin with - by prioritising flexible working and introducing female progression development programmes, for example - is the only world in which the gender pay gap disappears for good.

International Women's Day cupcakes are great, but merited promotions and pay rises are even sweeter.

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