Ireland must find a way to close the gender gap across various sectors, including agriculture.
That was the main message independent TD, Richard O’Donoghue, conveyed as he addressed the Dáil on a debate on the report of the Citizens’ Assembly on Gender Equality earlier this week.
He shed light on careers in agriculture, construction, education, and the motor vehicle maintenance and repair sector during his speech.
He told the Dáil, “what gender equality brings to society is the idea that anybody can do anything if they put their minds to it”.
In his opening address, O’Donoghue, who hails from a farming background and works in construction, recalled an experience earlier this week.
“I grew up with gender equality as a constant. I was struck by something during the week.”
“So, I was getting a small mark on the side of my car fixed. When I collected it, I was delighted to see that there was a female panel beater in the premises I picked it up in.”
“I thought that was great. But then, I have sat on many boards of schools where female teachers told me they were finding it hard to get male teachers in primary and secondary schools.”
“There are an awful lot of trades where we have a shortage of men for one trade and a shortage of women for a different one.”
He believes there should be equal opportunity for people, male or female, to do any job.
“Some physical jobs are probably better geared towards men as they involve heavy lifting. However, there are machines to do that work now, so there is no reason anyone cannot do those jobs.”
“In the construction business, I have had the pleasure of working alongside many female plasterers. It is a tough trade, but people want to do it.”
The TD attended a meeting with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the IFA recently in Kilmallock Mart. He reported that approximately 100 people were present.
“What shocked me on the night was that there were four people present under the age of 30. Two were female and two were male.”
“About 80%-90% of the rest of the people in the mart were men, and the remainder were women.”
“The biggest thing that came to mind was, and it was pointed out to the minister, that those in the age group who were left in the mart were between 50 and 70 or older.”
“We said that we needed to look at how we can encourage the next generation, male and female, to take up farming. I was delighted that there were four people under 30 there.”
“However, there should have been 44 people under 30 there if the services were in place to provide them with a decent living out of farming.”
He asked the Dáil: how do we correct that? He said, “the correction” has to come from the primary schools upwards and in teaching children of all ages.
“When asked at that early age what they would like to be when they are older, everyone should have an equal opportunity.”
“If we can instil that mindset at an early age, our next generation will do everything. However, how do we tackle some of the industries that we cannot encourage men into?”
“For example, primary school teaching and nursing. Why can we not get more females into male roles?”
“We must ensure that there is a transition and that people can do work equally.”
Concluding, he said: “Equally has always been in my house. I am the boss of my house when the boss is out. That sums it up, does it not?”