Next Social Movement

Gender Equality


Each of the three years of news analysis has highlighted the key social issue which people have engaged with. 2017 has provided a movement, which is not new, but is beginning to re-surface as a key social movement in Ireland.

How activism and human stories are changing perceptions.


The Tipping Point of Social Movements

Irish people have a tendency to "wait and see." We don't want to stick our necks out, disturb the status quo, so therefore we "wait and see" what everyone else does. We pride ourselves on "doing the right thing" such as on bringing in the plastic bag levy, but hang our heads when we think about ignoring the abuses of the past. In recent years, we can compare three news stories which have had an impact on Irish society.

This helps us understand the next social movement which Irish organisations need to recgonise.

Marriage Equality and Irish Water

In 2015 the referendum on allowing same-sex marriage took place. In the year leading up to the vote, the level of interest was quite low, but over Spring 2015, the nation was fully engaged with this campaign.

Similarly, during 2015 and 2016, discussion, debate and protests began about charging people for household water. For many, Irish Water was a symbol of another financial tax on people who were under financial pressure.

Both issues can be viewed through the lens of social movements - people becoming activists and debating the issue which impacts on various groups of people. As Irish Water issue refunds, and as same-sex weddings are celebrated, what is the next social issue Irish people will engage with?

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Gender Equality is rising as a news narrative.

In 2015, one of the most engaged with news stories was the debate about same-sex marriage spiking in May 2015, when Irish people voted in the constitutional change. Across the Winter and Spring of 2016, people took to the streets and protested against Irish Water, peaking in April 2017 when the Government announced it was abolishing the charge.

As a vacuum appears in the social narrative, housing became a key topic to discuss, but at a global level, gender imbalance became a serious issue for Ireland to address.


Global Debate, Local Impact

In 2017, this conversation has been fuelled by the Women's March, investigations in the Mother and Baby Homes discovering of significant number of human remains, the TV series the Handmaid's Tale, Donald “nobody respects women more than I do” Trump, the Irish women's football team making demands for better conditions, Fine Gael TDs calling out misogyny, President Trudeau talking to Taoiseach Varadkar about the benefits of gender equality, the establishment of the committee on the Eighth amendment, George Hook making controversial comments about rape and allegations about harassment ranging from Weinstein in Hollywood to the former Director of The Gate Theatre in Dublin.

Brands Recognising Women

While 10% of women and 21% of men disagree that "there needs to be greater equality between men and women," there is a consensus that there is gender imbalance in Irish society. Women are playing more diverse and prominent roles than ever before. While women are more likely to earn less, work part time and not be in senior positions in organisations, women are also playing a variety of roles within society and business.

A number of organisations and brands have begun to acknowledge women in a variety of roles. While over 60% of US advertising continues to depict women purely as mothers, brands are slowly waking up to the various identities of women.

87% of Irish women demand a truer representation of women in Irish advertising, although less men (72%) believe misrepresenation is an issue. 

Organisations in Ireland will need to readdress key policies and plans for this social movement which will become the absolute mainstream by 2020.

Both men and women, from various backgrounds, will expect every organisation and brand to support gender equality.