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The challenges and rewards of a Gender Pay Gap report

Professor Gina Quin, President NCI, with a scales prop to promote equality.

Professor Gina Quin, President of NCI

On 13 July 2021, the Gender Pay Gap Information Act 2021 (the Act) was signed into law and on 3 June 2022 the Employment Equality Act 1998 (section 20A) (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2022 (the Regulations) were published. Effectively, this means that every company in Ireland with more than 250 employees must pick a ‘snapshot’ pay day and, 6 months later, report their gender pay gap. NCI chose 30 June, and so published their report on 30 December 2022.

‘Gender Pay Gap’ should not be confused with ‘Equal Pay’: in Ireland, it is already illegal to not pay the same money to two people doing the same job in the same circumstances. ‘Gender Pay Gap’ is an institutional overview of the difference in pay for men and women across all levels and contract types.

The Gender Pay Gap report for a complex higher education institution such as NCI is both challenging and rewarding. It is challenging not just because of the mix of part-time/full-time/fixed/flexible/permanent/temporary contracts, but also because traditional societal gender imbalances are reflected in some roles, which can make the naked statistics look unflattering when stripped of context. The reward of this report comes in reading through it all and understanding why the statistics look like they do.

National College of Ireland has two areas that particularly exaggerate the pay gap when all staff are considered at once: Associate Faculty and the Early Learning Initiative (predominantly women).

When the outliers of Associate Faculty and ELI are removed, NCI’s Gender Pay Gap is a mean of 7.1% and a median of 8.2%, which is below the national average. This means we still have work to do to employ more women in top roles and/or more men in part-time/flexible roles, but we are headed in the right direction.

Mean gap 7.1% Media gap 8.2% - NCI's Gender Pay Gap excluding AF and ELI

When Associate Faculty and ELI are included, our Gender Pay Gap looks a lot bigger, with a Mean of 26.1% and a Median of 37.4% – and this is where context is required.

Many of our Associate Faculty, particularly in the School of Computing (traditionally a male-dominated area) are men (61%), receiving a relatively high hourly rate, working relatively long hours, often outside of normal working hours (evenings or Saturdays).

NCI has long been aware of the gender imbalance in computing and has actively been addressing this at many levels, from hiring and progression practices in relation to staff, to the recruitment of students, with a free summer computing camp especially for second-level girls, and a full computing master’s scholarship to encourage women into the higher echelons of technology in partnership with the 30% Club. Change is happening, if not as quickly as one would wish!

Looking just at Associate Faculty, the Gender Pay Gap has a mean of 5% and a median of 1.8%, which is well below the national average.

The Early Learning Initiative (ELI) is a specialist programme targeted at eliminating educational disadvantage, with a focus on early childhood development (traditionally a female-dominated area). Many of the women who work for ELI do so because the part-time hours and family-friendly flexibility allow them to balance their jobs and caring responsibilities. 

Looking just at ELI, the Gender Pay Gap is, on average, non-existent, yet still these stats do not convey the value of ELI in providing jobs that enable women to work, who would otherwise be unable to, and in delivering education that allows continuous professional development as well as educational progression from NFQ level 5 all the way through to level 9 (postgraduate diploma/masters).

NCI addresses the gender imbalance in the sector through its activism to have Early Childhood Education and Care recognised as a profession; through its hiring and progression policies; and through directly encouraging male second level students to consider the BA (Hons) in Early Childhood Education and Care (further research in this area will be carried out in 2023).

NCI also offers paid parental leave to men as well as to women and, where a role permits, offers family-friendly flexibility. Again, the College does what it can to contribute to the momentum for broader societal equality, but ­cannot effect that change alone.

More even than the ongoing effort to increase the number of women in STEM, it is rewarding to note the very real impact NCI is having on activating more women into jobs that provide real opportunities for personal and career development. This impact – the high value of ELI - is something that the Gender Pay Gap statistics will not reveal.

However, it is also rewarding to have now established an institutional ‘snapshot’, against which future progress can be measured: NCI's Gender Pay Gap Report 2022.