What is Gender Equality?

Gender equality is achieved when women and men enjoy the same rights and opportunities across all sectors of society, including economic participation and decision-making, and when the different behaviours, aspirations and needs of women and men are equally valued and favoured.

The European Institute for Gender Equality has compiled an online Glossary of gender mainstreaming concepts and definitions, drawn from international and regional women’s human rights instruments, European Union and Council of Europe legislative and strategy documents.

The Council of Europe has also compiled a Gender Equality Glossary based on the definitions and terms of Council of Europe instruments and standards relating to gender equality and this is available online.

How Do We Measure Gender Equality?

Gender equality is measured by looking at the representation of men and of women in a range of roles.

The Central Statistics Office regularly publishes "Women and Men in Ireland", a compendium of key statistics which enable us to map progress achieved towards de facto gender equality in Ireland.

The European Union statistical office, Eurostat, publishes an overview of gender statistics for the European Union from fields such as education, the labour market, earnings and health, important for showing differences in the situations of women and men.

A number of international comparative gender equality indices also exist which offer a way to compare Ireland’s achievements with those of other countries.  Each index looks at a distinct list of parameters and the choice of parameters affects the outcome for each country.

European Institute for Gender Equality EU Gender Equality Index

The European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) EU Gender Equality Index provides an easily interpretable measure of gender equality in the EU across 6 key policy domains – work, money, knowledge, time, power and health, and two satellite domains (violence and intersecting inequalities).

United Nations Gender Inequality Index

The United Nations Gender Inequality Index is based on the premise that "all too often, women and girls are discriminated against in health, education and the labour market with negative repercussions for their freedom".  The UN GII is a measure based on these inequalities.

World Economic Forum Global Gender Pay Gap Index

The Global Gender Gap Index, introduced by the World Economic Forum in 2006, is another framework for capturing the magnitude and scope of gender-based disparities which benchmarks national gender gaps on economic, political, education and health criteria.  This Index looks at economic participation and opportunity deviation; educational attainment deviation; health and survival deviation and political empowerment deviation.

Using this Index, Ireland was ranked in 5th place for 2015, and 3rd among EU Member States.  This achievement is linked to the importance placed under this index to the presence of a woman as Head of State over the past 50 years – a measure under which Ireland scores particularly well.  It also shows that such indices can be misleading unless they are interpreted carefully.

Social Watch Gender Equity Index

Social Watch is a network comprised by national coalitions of civil society organizations and it too prepares an index. The Social Watch gender equality index is based on the gap between women and men in education, the economy and political empowerment.