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National Skills Council Discusses Barriers Facing Women and Persons with Disabilities

The National Skills Council has met to discuss the barriers facing women and people with disabilities accessing the labour market.

The Council heard females had a higher monthly unemployment rate than males in June 2021, while the number of females in employment was lowest in the South East.

The Council heard from the National Womens’ Council, Women in Technology and Science, the National Disability Authority, and representatives from Dell and Accenture.

Minister Niall Collins said, “this is a critical moment in responding to these issues as we emerge into the post Covid-19 world. The issue of access means access for everyone – not just these particular groups.”

“Inclusion is one of the core strategic goals of the Department’s Statement of Strategy. We want to ensure that we provide supports and opportunities for learning to all. This means: recognising the needs of vulnerable learners, the most marginalised and those with special and additional needs; and assisting people in accessing and progressing through higher and further education and training, and into employment.”

Sandra McCullagh, Women’s Economic Equality Co-ordinator at the National Women’s Council of Ireland, Dr. Andrea Johnson, Chairperson of Women in Technology and Science (WITS) and Dr. Aideen Hartney, Director of the National Disability Authority, addressed Council members about barriers that women, persons with disabilities face in accessing and participating fully in the labour market.

These barriers include the unequal division of care falling to women and lack of support for persons with disabilities to work in a flexible manner with modified job tasks.

Speaking at the meeting Ms McCullagh said, “the continuing reliance on women to carry out the majority of unpaid care is the most significant barrier to women’s equal participation, and in particular for the many women that are lone parents.”

Dr Hartney said, “as Ireland moves into the post-COVID work environment it is imperative that persons with disabilities – with their skills and abilities – do not get left further behind.”

Dr Johnson said, “we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity, as we step towards our recovery after the pandemic, having seen seismic shifts in how we work, to re-imagine how we attract diverse talent and more importantly, how we develop and nurture that talent.”

The Council’s discussion identified some key overarching points:

  • Diversity is power. Leveraging diversity, inclusion, and equality drives performance, strengthens innovation, and ensures businesses have the talent they need to thrive.
  • Real inclusion must mean everyone. Bold leadership must strive for more change, deeper change, and must seek to anticipate the challenges or differences that we can’t even see yet.
  • A priority area for action must be broadening of paths into the labour market, realising good quality employment and fair compensation for all. The economic recovery is the opportunity to build back better.
  • The work ahead is shared work. The Council has brought Government, enterprise, and education and training providers together, to share insights, learn from each other and seek to drive collective ways forward.

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