ICOS Gender Equality Charter aims to alter ‘abject imbalance’ in co-op sector
ICOS, the policy and representative body for the Irish co-operative movement, including the dairy processing co-operatives and livestock marts, has today published a National Gender Equality Charter for member co-operatives (attached separately).
This is an overarching charter aimed at promoting, facilitating and developing the participation of women in Irish co-operatives and their boards.
The gender and diversity imbalance across agriculture is well documented. This is most acute in relation to the representation of women on the boards of co-operatives. The ICOS Gender Equality Charter is clear in its goal to substantially alter this abject imbalance.
On the recommendation of the Board of ICOS, member co-operatives are committed to a 9-point plan to implement measures to meet targets for a radical transition to gender equality. A range of measures will be rolled out aimed at facilitating the full adoption of the charter.
The Irish co-operative sector, including ICOS, has membership and governance structures which demonstrably have poor involvement of women, younger people, and minorities. This is a function of the more traditionally orientated membership of co-operatives, which being, for the most part, farmers, is mostly male and somewhat older than the general population.
Launching the Charter, ICOS President James O’Donnell was joined on his farm at Golden, Co. Tipperary by Vanessa Kiely-O’Connor, a board member of Bandon Co-operative and Ann Kinane-Creamer, a board member of Tipperary Co-operative.
“ICOS has a responsibility to show leadership to its sector and to society in general, and takes very seriously its responsibility to encourage and promote diversity, and particularly gender diversity, in co-op structures,” said James O’Donnell, President of ICOS.
“Co-operatives in the ICOS affiliate network represent over 175,000 individual members supporting 11,000 jobs across Ireland. We recognise there is chronic inequality when it comes to female representation and influence on co-op boards. It has long gone past the time for this to change. From this moment on, the role of women on co-operative boards will change for the better.
“This is not just an Irish problem. For whatever reason, the under-representation of women on co-op boards is an issue across Europe. We want to show leadership in changing this damning statistic by supporting our members in using all methods possible to encourage, support and sustain female participation, and input and decision making at board level. This is why we have carefully put together a dedicated charter to drive the process.
“The Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, recently stated that he will refuse the nomination of male candidates to state boards if organisations do not show a genuine commitment to prioritising the nomination of women. His aim is to increase the representation of male and female board members to a minimum of 40%, and ICOS supports the Minister’s initiative.
“On International Women’s Day, we’re committed to promoting, facilitating and welcoming women into our co-ops, their representative structures and their boards. Our charter is crystal clear in this objective and we are confident that with the full support of our members, we can achieve this. Our co-ops are progressive, modern, sustainable organisations, producing food and other goods to the highest sustainability standards, while supporting local communities, economies, and jobs.
“We are very conscious that society, and our customers, expect us to reflect all our shared and progressive values. In 2023, there is no place for inequality in any sector of society and this includes agriculture and the progressive co-operative movement,” said James O’Donnell.
21 Sep 2023