From grassroots movements to the US midterm elections last year, where 29-year-old Alexandria Ocazio Cortez earned her place in the history books by becoming the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, the rise of millennial females has become a potent force in politics.

If the nomination papers for next week’s local elections are anything to go by, it’s a trend that is slow to catch on in Ireland. Of almost 2,000 candidates contesting local authority seats, just 560 – or 28% are women.

This may not seem like progress and falls short of the expectation that was built following an increase in both turnout and participation of women in both sides of the referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment last year.

"In the last local elections, the average was around 21%, it was roughly around 17% ten years ago."

But according to Dr Adrian Kavanagh of Maynooth University, who compiles and analyses election data, this is the highest percentage of women to ever take part in local elections.;

"In the last local elections, the average was around 21%, it was roughly around 17% ten years ago. So it might not look very dramatic in the context of people hoping for a 50:50 split, but it is a pretty significant increase," he said.

Around 60 of the women candidates are under the age of 35, suggesting that many of these would have been politicised during the repeal or marriage equality debates.

Smaller parties tend to have a higher rate of women candidates. The Social Democrats (55%) and Solidarity People Before Profit (59%) both have more women than men.

The Green Party has (44%) and the Labour Party (41%) is also running higher than average candidates.

Neither Fianna Fáil (21%) nor Fine Gael (29%) reach the 30% quota that applies to general, but not local, elections.

While they are not running the same level of candidates as smaller parties, "their percentages have gone up since 2016," says Dr Kavanagh.

There is a geographical element at play also with an average of 41% female candidates on ballot papers across Dublin and 20% in rural areas.

While there are no quotas at local level, Dr Kavanagh believes there has been a knock-on effect.

"Quotas mean that parties want to seem more female candidate being elected to county councils, because county councils are the main doorway for moving on to winning a Dáil seat," he said.

"We want to see our political system like our society, so that women make up half of our elected representatives."

Another factor that is changing things is the support infrastructure that has emerged in recent years, groups like The 50:50 Group or Women for Election, which provides advice to women thinking of running, mentoring and training in areas such as campaigning, negotiating and communications.

Its CEO Ciarín de Buis, says their aim is simple.

"We want to see our political system like our society, so that women make up half of our elected representatives," said Ms de Buis.

The solution is also relatively simple, more women need to run. When they do, they get elected in equal parts to men.

So what’s stopping them? Full-time hours for part time work is the biggest complaint you will hear from those deciding not to run.

Councillors are paid a gross annual allowance of €16,645 which means that most require another job. Jennifer Cuffe, a Fianna Fáil councillor who is stepping down, said the role requires around 30 hours a week which she is doing on top of her work as a barrister.

"I love being a barrister and I love being a politician, but I had to choose which one is best for me and, for now, I’m choosing law," she said.

They can get thousands of e-mails a week and also need to be out canvassing and attending events locally

As well as council meetings, many councillors sit on local drug and alcohol taskforces, regional health forums, school boards of management and the boards of companies that are associated with local councils.

They can get thousands of e-mails a week and also need to be out canvassing and attending events locally. "It is not conducive to normal family life" said Ms Cuffe.

Labour councillor, Grace Tallon, is also stepping down and she believes the structure of councils has to change. "Councils need to be more family friendly," she said.

"You could be meetings until twelve o’clock at night and that does not facilitate family life." 

Some women have recently brought their babies into council chambers to breastfeed. But the council buildings do not have childcare facilities, something that became an issue recently when an emergency meeting was called for Dún Laoghaire Rathdown Council in the middle of the day during school holidays.

Nor do councillors get maternity leave: "It is not good enough in this day and age, it is madness that we are still in a situation whereby if you are in hospital having a baby, or even at home with your baby afterwards, you are marked absent from a meeting. That is on that record," said Ms Tallon. 

"As a female, you are more susceptible to being abused. I have seen comments about myself online that I was embarrassed by, let alone my family having to read them."

Another issue that Ms Cuffe says has "most definitely" put her off from politics is the increasing level of online abuse that is more typically directed at women.

A recent study found that three quarters of female parliamentarians under 40 across Europe had been subject to sexual or sexist remarks.

"As a female, you are more susceptible to being abused. I have seen comments about myself online that I was embarrassed by, let alone my family having to read them. I have had comments about my weight, my hair colour, what I look like.

"I don’t think they would care what color a man’s tie is, whether he is overweight, whether he is skinny, whether he has blond hair, red hair or brown hair. But it seems to matter of you’re a woman."

For Ms De Buis, change will only come about when more women run for election. When they do, she says, they get elected at the same rate as men.

"We would like to see gender quotas in place, and we would certainly hope that for the next local election, five years from this May, that there would be something in place.

"Because quotas work and we’ve seen how they worked in the last general election."