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Friday, December 12, 1997 Published at 17:10 GMT


Poverty and slow promotion for women
image: [ Mary Robinson, former Irish president and senior UN official, is the exception ]
Mary Robinson, former Irish president and senior UN official, is the exception

There might be much talk of the age of equality, but according to a report by the Equal Opportunities Commission, women are still getting a rough deal in the workplace and in society in general.

The report says that women continue to face a life of poverty. Women over 40 received less than half of men's average incomes and still did not qualify for social security benefit in many cases.

Research also found that women who took a career break to look after a member of the family found that their lower pay made it harder for them to safeguard their income when they were out of work.

"At the moment, women with caring responsibilities bear the brunt of the mismatch between their work patterns and the benefit system," said Kamlesh, Bahl, chairwoman of the Equal Opportunities Commission.

The EOC report comes a day after the United Nations issued its survey on women employed by Western firms. While women make up 40 per cent of the labour force and outnumber men on the lower rungs of the career ladder, less than three per cent are in top management jobs.

A large proportion are unable to break through the so-called glass ceiling - an invisible barrier of male prejudices and networks. The survey also revealed that women were fighting a losing battle against sexual discrimination.

"Almost universally, women have failed to reach leading positions in major corporations and private sector organisations irrespective of their abilities," said the survey's author Linda Wirth. "The higher the position, the more glaring the gender gap."

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