The Citizens' Assembly on Gender Equality has heard that the employment rate for men was 11% points higher than for women in 2019.

Elaine O'Mahony from the Central Statistics Office presented statistics on gender to the assembly, which is holding its first hearings in Malahide, Co Dublin this weekend.

Over the coming months, it will hold weekend hearings addressing the topics of caring, gender equality in the workplace and representation in the public sphere, before concluding on 5 July.

The Citizens' Assembly on Gender Equality was established in July last year to bring forward proposals to the Houses of the Oireachtas to advance gender equality.

Ms O'Mahony presented statistics on gender, focusing on paid work, including the gender pay and employment gaps, home life and caring for others and politics and public life.

It showed that the employment rate for men was 11% points higher than for women in 2019

It also showed that the gender pay gap had risen from 13.9% in 2015 to 14.4% in 2017, though it was consistently lower that the EU average.

The 2018 figures showed that most lone parents were women: 143,100 women compared with 24,000 men.

Figures from 2018 also showed that 47% of women were more likely to have a third level education compared with 39% of men, according to the presentation.

While in politics, the proportion of female TDs increased from 15.1% in 2011 to just over 22.2% in 2016 after the introduction of quota legislations.

However, that figure remains almost the same after the last election at 22.5%. 

Dr Anne McGauren from the Centre of Gender Research and Womens' Studies in Trinity College Dublin gave a presentation on recent developments in gender equality, including legislation.

As with all of the speakers, Dr McGauren then took questions from the Citziens' Assembly in a closed door session.

Speaking to RTÉ News, Dr McGauren said the Assembly members were very engaged, asking whether changing the law was enough to address gender equality, whether more could be done to support men and what was the position was in other countries with regard to supporting parents in work in caring for their children.

On whether gender affects career choices, the Citizens' Assembly members heard from three people about their personal experiences, Lisa O'Brien, a quantity surveyor who appeared on the RTÉ programme Room to Improve, Oliver Allan, a male nurse, and Deidre O'Neill, a former teacher who went on to carry out research into gender imbalance in schools.

This was followed by Professor Sheila Greene's presentation on gender stereotypes and norms and how pervasive they can be.

"Gender role stereotypes work to change people's behaviours....[and] would be one of the factors that might work against equality," the Fellow Emeritus in Psychology told RTÉ News.

"We can see that stereotypes operate in a serious way to constrain people in terms of their actual human rights, to be free and to be the type of man or woman they want to be," Prof Greene added.

One observer has raised concerns about the scope of issues being explored by the assembly on gender equality.

Feminist Campaigner Ailbhe Smyth said she was concerned about what she described as the assembly's overall "restricted agenda".

Ms Smyth said she was concerned that there was no explicit reference to the inequalities between women in terms of class, ethnicity, disability, sexuality and other factors.

The veteran campaigner said she was also concerned that the issues of violence against women and healthcare, including maternal and reproductive health were not on the agenda for consideration during the hearings.

She called on interest groups and individuals to make submissions as part of the Assembly's public consultation process.