Hourly pay is lower for women and pension pots are substantially smaller than for their male counterparts, according to separate research in advance of Sunday's International Women's Day.

The EU Commission says hourly earnings for women in Ireland are still 14.4% lower. Across the EU the average gap is 16.4%. And consultants Mercer have presented research showing Irish men can expect a retirement fund 60% better funded than their female counterparts.

Mercer's Mairead O'Mahony says there are three main factors for the disparity - women tend to earn and save less than men, they have more gaps in service and women tend to live longer. This means that women need to survive on a smaller pot of money for a longer time. Ms O'Mahony says the gaps women take in their worklife would centre around maternity leave, parental leave and part-time work and would make up most of the 60% disparity. Research suggests that women spend on average about 12 years out of the paid workforce, which is huge in terms of missed contributions to a person's pension plan, Ms O'Mahony adds. 

Ms O'Mahony says that people are planning to do something about the disparities in pension pots, adding that lots of organisations really want to help their female workforces address these challenges. Female focused financial education sessions work really well, she says, adding that women tend to learn better in groups and especially so in female groups. They are also three times more likely to re-engage in financial advice after such sessions.

It it vital to engage both male and female leaders in an organisation on the issue of diversity on a board and Ms O'Mahony says the issue is not just a problem for women but it is a problem for business in general. A lot of research suggests that organisations that have better gender diversity across all ranks - and not just at senior levels - will achieve greater sales, greater performance and better decision making. "It makes sense, more diverse groups make better decisions," she states. 

MORNING BRIEFS - British chancellor George Osborne said he would like, if his party remains in power after the upcoming elections, to sell Ulster Bank's parent company RBS "as quickly as we can get rid of it". British taxpayers own 79% of the institution having pumped £45 billion into the bank in 2008. Its shares are trading at 373 pence. In order to recover the nominal value of the bailout funds the chancellor would need to sell the stake at an average price of 455 pence.

*** Internet retailers Amazon and Alibaba have decided the best policy is to keep your friends close but your enemies closer. The two compete against each other on a global basis but that has not stopped Amazon setting up shop on Alibaba's online platform in China. Amazon is offering food, women's footwear, toys and kitchen ware through its store on Alibaba's site Tmall.com Alibaba hosts other retailers online and unlike Amazon it does not sell its own products. Amazon will primarily be competing in China against JD.com. Since JD.com is one of Alibaba's domestic rivals, it is happy to help Amazon do that.

*** European shares hit a seven year high and, overnight, the euro briefly fell below one $1.10 cents for the first time since 2003. Investors were reacting to news that the European Central Bank will begin buying up assets including debt issued by euro zone countries on Monday as part of a €1.1 trillion stimulus programme for the single currency area. A weaker euro is a by-product of that plan. This morning the currency trading just back over $1.10 and 72.3 pence sterling.

*** Chinese company Fosun International has acquired a 5% stake in British travel group Thomas Cook as it bids to expand its presence in the European tourism and leisure market. Fosun paid just under £92m the stake and said it plans to buy another 5%. Last week Fosun bought the French tour operator Club Med.