The 50-50 Group Seeking Equal Political Representation

50 per cent of Ireland’s population is female. Yet, little over 22 per cent of the Dáil consists of women. This places Ireland 82nd (out of 189 ranked positions) on a world classification list compiled by the Inter- Parliamentary Union (2017)[1].

Our Vision of Change

Gender parity in Irish politics

 Who we are?

  • The 50-50 Group is a single issue national advocacy group dedicated to achieving equal representation in Irish politics.
  • The 50-50 Group is a fully inclusive organisation and politically non-aligned provided parties support gender equality.
  • The 50-50 Group welcomes both men and women as members.
  • The 50-50 Group endorses both male and female candidates who support measures to redress the under-representation of women in the Irish Parliament (Oireachtas).
  • The 50-50 Group believes that the under-representation of women in Irish politics is an affront to the democratic ideals of justice and equality.

 What we do?

  • Advocate for the implementation of measures to redress the gender imbalance of Irish politics.
  • Support the Candidate Selection Gender Quota legislation adopted by the Oireachtas in 2012. This requires all political parties in receipt of state funding to select at least 30% women candidates and 30% male candidates. This was recommended by the Oireachtas Sub-Committee on Women in Politics which reported in November 2009.
  • Lobby to extend the legislative gender quota to Local Elections by amending the Electoral Act 1997, Art 17 Sec 3, to allocate state funding to qualified parties based on their first preference vote at the preceding general electionand the preceding local election (e.g. 60-40 split). This would allow for a minimum 30% gender quota for the 2019 local elections and 40% for the 2024 local elections.

 Why gender quotas for local elections?

  • Analysis of Irish elections reveals that previ­ous experience in local office is a key springboard to higher office for both men and women[2].
  • However, few women have an opportunity to harness their local office experience and associated skills (such as building local networks and enhancing name recognition) as men are over-represented in Irish local government. Currently men make up 79% of local councillors.
  • Not all political parties are successful in meeting voluntary gender targets. For the 2014 local elections, neither Fianna Fáil nor Fine Gael reached their self-imposed voluntary gender quotas of 33% and 25% respectively[3].
  • International research shows that the adoption of electoral gender quotas is associated with increases in the overall quality of female and male politicians elected and those women elected via a gender quota are no less qualified than their non-quota colleagues[4].

For further information please email: or or or

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[1] (accessed 8 November 2017)

[2] Fiona Buckley, Mack Mariani, Claire McGing, and Timothy J. White (2015) ‘Is Local Office a Spring­board for Women to Dáil Éireann?’ Journal of Women, Politics and Policy Vol.36, No.3, pp. 311–35.

[3] Just 17% of Fianna Fáil’s candidates were women. The corresponding proportion for Fine Gael was 23%.

[4] For example see: Paulo Júlio and José Tavares (2017) ‘The Good, the Bad and the Different: Can Gender Quotas Raise the Quality of Politicians?’ Economica, Vol 84, No 335, pp. 454–479 and Allen, Peter; David Cutts and Rosie Campbell (2016) ‘Measuring the quality of politicians elected via gender quotas – are they any different?’ Political Studies, Vol. 64, No 1, pp.143-163



If You Can’t Find a Spouse Who Supports Your Career, Stay Single!

I am a huge fan of Avivah Wittenburg Cox. She writes for the Harvard Business Review. She is talking about women in the corporate world. However, I think her views are also relevant to women who work primarily in the home. 

Avivah Wittenburg Cox writes:
 I was at a dinner with eight highly successful professional women recently, ranging in age from 35 to 74. Their stories were typical of research I have been conducting on dual-career couples. One had just been given a huge promotion opportunity in another country, but had struggled for several months to get her spouse to agree to join her. Another had decided that to save her marriage, she would take a yearlong sabbatical and go back to school, giving the family some balance and a breather from two high-powered jobs. A third had tried to work part-time for her law firm but quickly realized she was being professionally sidelined. She opted for a doctorate instead. Her husband continued his career.

This experience underlines the conclusion I’ve drawn from years of research and experience: Professionally ambitious women really only have two options when it comes to their personal partners — a super-supportive partner or no partner at all. Anything in between ends up being a morale- and career-sapping morass.

This is the reality of the half-baked transition we are in when it comes to women in the workplace. The 20th century saw the rise of women. The 21st century will see the adaptation (or not) of men to the consequences of that rise. The reality is that the transition is not smooth and the backlashes will be regular, but the benefits are potentially huge.

So far, a small minority of men and companies are at the forefront of the shift. As Melinda Gates recently wrote, we are still “sending our daughters into companies designed for our dads.” And into marriages billed as equal, as long as the man’s career isn’t disturbed by his wife’s success. (While I’ve occasionally heard stories of career-stifling spouses from same-sex couples, the vast majority I’ve heard are from heterosexual couples, and it’s almost always the woman whose career comes second.)

It’s not that these husbands aren’t progressive, supportive spouses. They certainly see themselves that way — as do many of the CEOs and leaders of companies I work with. But they are often caught out by trade-offs they were not expecting. They are happy to have successful, high-earning wives. They applaud and support them — until it starts to interfere with their own careers. A study by Pamela Stone and Meg Lovejoy found that husbands were a key factor in two-thirds of women’s decisions to quit the workforce, often because the wives had to fill a so-called parenting vacuum. “While the women almost unanimously described their husbands as supportive,” writes Joan Williams of the study, “they also told how those husbands refused to alter their own work schedule or increase their participation in caregiving.” As one woman put it, “He has always said to me, ‘You can do whatever you want to do.’ But he’s not there to pick up any load.”

The women are left shocked and surprised. They had thought the rules of engagement were clear, that well-educated couples would be mutually supportive and take turns, helping each other become all they can be. A survey of Harvard Business School graduates emphasizes the disconnect: More than half the men expected their careers to take precedence over their wives’ careers, while most women expected egalitarian marriages. (Almost no women expected their own careers to come first.) Millennial men are often portrayed as more enlightened, but data complicates this picture: Surveys have shown that younger men may be even less committed to equality than their elders.

Even for couples who are committed to equality, it takes two exceptional people to navigate tricky dual-career waters. It’s easier to opt for the path of least resistance — the historical norm of a career-focused man and a family-focused woman. Especially if, as is often the case, the man is a few years older, has a career head start, and so earns a higher salary. This leads to a cycle that’s hard to break: Men get more opportunities to earn more, and it gets harder and harder for women to catch up.

The disillusionment is deep — and lasting. The result is a delayed reaction, as I found in researching a book on the increasing divorce and marriage rates in the 1950s and 1960s: Talented women, forced by their husband’s attitudes to downgrade their aspirations, bide their time. After their children leave, often so do the wives. About 60% of late-life divorces are initiated by women, often to focus their energies on flourishing careers post-50.

Now it’s the husband’s turn to be shocked. They had worked so hard, provided so well — that was what they had understood their role to be! But that isn’t what modern couplehood is about in a more gender-balanced century. The dual-earner couple has huge advantages in turbulent economic times, as Eli Finkel of Northwestern University has written in his book The All-or-Nothing Marriage. The best marriages have never been happier, more balanced, or more mutually fulfilling. Gender balance at home has created far more resilient couples. But it takes mutual support and balance across the decades. Ignore your partner’s dreams at your peril.

“I didn’t know,” many of the men I interviewed told me after their wives left. To me, this sounds a lot like what corporate leaders tell me after their most senior female executives quit. They hadn’t expected them to leave, hadn’t quite understood how upset they were by the attitudes, the lack of recognition, or the promotion of the less competent man down the hall.

But in the end, underneath it all, it isn’t true that they didn’t know. The reality is they didn’t care. They didn’t listen — because they didn’t think they had to. They nodded absently and ignored the rambling in their ear because they thought it didn’t matter and wouldn’t directly affect them. Several men admitted to me that they just thought their wives’ frustrations were due to menopause and all they had to do was wait it out. It’s this kind of minimizing and discounting that drives women to distraction — before it drives them out the door. Much to the surprise, and subsequent grief, of their husbands.

A lot of the things people learn about leadership and team building at work is directly transferable to managing better balance at home. Some of the strategies I outline in my upcoming book include:

  • Vision. Discuss long-term personal and professional goals early, and revise regularly. Lack of alignment and mutual support between couples can derail entire life strategies. Be clear about what support will be required and expected to achieve these goals and where it will come from.
  • Active listening. The most common complaint from women is that they don’t feel heard; from men, that they don’t feel appreciated. For the first, introduce regular sit-down listening sessions (monthly is good, quarterly a minimum). Dedicated, face-to-face, concentrated, unspeaking, listening to everything your partner needs to say. Then repeat back what you heard. Adjust as necessary. Then switch. Sound awkward? Only until it becomes relationship-saving.
  • Feedback (aka flattery). Everyone appreciates feedback, but it is increasingly rare, both at home and at work. The rule usually recommended is 5 to 1: Five positive comments for every “constructive” one. Turns out humans love to be admired, especially by their intimate partners. So dial up the volume and tell your spouse how gorgeous, brilliant, caring, and supportive they are. Reward the positive and watch it grow. Sound artificial? Only until you see the light ignite in their eyes.

If your partner is not willing to engage, uninterested in “leaning in,” and resistant to seeking help, you should ask yourself why. Just like at work, it is interesting first to work on yourself. Understand your own issues, the impact you have on others, the degree to which you are creating the reaction you are struggling with. Consider working with a therapist or coach. In the end, after you’ve figured yourself out, if the relationship hasn’t improved, the question remains: What is keeping you in this team? Are you staying out of love or fear?

Until recently, women had more fear than finances; a lack of love was bad, but not as bad as poverty. For many women, greater financial independence means they can hold their relationships to a higher standard. Women want love and recognition and support, at work and at home. Companies that don’t offer it find they struggle with retention of women — many of whom will start their own companies. Couples that don’t offer it struggle with the same thing: Women leave.

Retaining women, at home and at work, takes skill and self-awareness. It takes attention and an intentional readjustment of yesterday’s rules to today’s realities. At work, it means adapting company cultures and systems. At home, it requires an equally strategic focus on enhancing both partners’ potential, with a long-term family vision across lengthening lives, tons of attentive listening, and regular flattery for the journey. Anything less is so yesterday.

Avivah Wittenberg-Cox is CEO of 20-first, one of the world’s leading gender consulting firms, and author of Seven Steps to Leading a Gender-Balanced Business.