Gender Equality Strategy

Oral Answers to Questions — Communities – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:45 pm on 5 December 2016.

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Photo of Cathal Boylan Cathal Boylan Sinn Féin 2:45, 5 December 2016

2. Mr Boylan asked the Minister for Communities for an update on the gender equality strategy. (AQO 832/16-21)

Photo of Paul Givan Paul Givan DUP

The Member will be aware that, when I took office as Minister for Communities, I inherited a number of strategies covering a wide range of social inclusion issues, including gender equality. This is an important issue for our society, and I have been clear from the outset that I want to consider how best to take forward this work in the context of the draft Programme for Government and the Executive's draft social strategy. The current consultation on the draft Programme for Government and the planned consultation on the draft social strategy present a valuable opportunity to hear what citizens think about the big issues that impact on our society and, importantly, to take their views on how they wish to see these issues addressed. I am committed to getting this right, and that takes time. This period of extensive consultation will help to inform how I move forward on gender equality.

Photo of Cathal Boylan Cathal Boylan Sinn Féin

I thank the Minister for his answer. Specifically, how will he ensure that the needs of the transgender community will be adequately met?

Photo of Paul Givan Paul Givan DUP

In respect of gender issues, everyone will have an opportunity to engage in the consultation process. I encourage everybody who has an interest to engage in that. My Department has already been engaging with section 75 organisations as part of the development of the social strategy. Everyone needs to engage in the process so that we can collectively provide a framework in which all these issues can be dealt with in our society.

Photo of Jonathan Bell Jonathan Bell DUP

Are there any plans for or developments in a new gender equality strategy?

Photo of Paul Givan Paul Givan DUP

This year is the fortieth anniversary of the introduction of sex discrimination law in Northern Ireland. We have had an Executive gender equality strategy in place for the last 10 years, yet there are still stark examples of gender inequality in our society. There remains, for example, a gender pay gap in Northern Ireland. I have also noted from the Equality Commission's Expecting Equality investigation that 36% of women participating in the investigation believed that they had been treated unfairly or disadvantaged at work as a result of their pregnancy or having taken maternity leave. It also revealed that half of the women thought that their career opportunities were worse than they were before their pregnancy. On a slightly more positive note, 48% of survey respondents felt that they had been treated fairly. That is why I believe that fresh thinking is required and why I am keen to look at this cross-cutting issue in the context of the social strategy, which will go out for consultation in due course.

Photo of Chris Lyttle Chris Lyttle Alliance

How will the new strategy promote the new system of shared parental leave and flexible working introduced by the previous Minister for Employment and Learning?

Photo of Paul Givan Paul Givan DUP

The Member will know that we are working through an Executive process before the substance of the draft social strategy becomes public. Once it is made available, we will be able to explore the issues further in the consultation process.