Clarity Locums | Locum Agency Menu


Revealing Equality: The Invisible Job's Impact on Gender Parity

The theme for International Women's Day 2024, "Inspire Inclusion," reflects on current barriers still being faced by women in the healthcare industry and on a wider scale, all industries. Inclusion, defined as the act of including and the state of being included, embodies a fundamental aspect of societal progress and harmony. The International Women's Day (IWD) organisation emphasises that inspiring others to understand and value women's inclusion fosters a better world and moreover, when women themselves are encouraged and empowered to embrace inclusion, they experience a profound sense of belonging and relevance.

However, achieving true inclusion is not without its challenges. We are at a critical point in the fight for gender equality, where we must examine our current systems and processes, particularly in the workplace to understand how they shape the landscape for inclusion. To delve deeper into this topic, I had the privilege of speaking with Paula Fyans, a Pharmacist, Educator, podcast creator and Author of "The Invisible Job."

Paula has experienced the barriers to inclusion faced by many women, both as a mother working full-time (in an international career in Pharma and university) and as a stay at home mother. Her book combines extensive global research with insights from her interviews with women from the UK and Ireland on their personal experiences.

During our conversation, Paula provided invaluable insights into the complexities of fostering inclusion in various areas of life. We explored the nuances of societal structures and workplace dynamics that either facilitate or hinder the journey towards inclusion. By examining this intersection of gender, career, and societal expectation in her work, Paula has sought to uncover actionable strategies for bridging the gap that exists between genders in the workplace.

Aoife: What inspired you to pursue a career in healthcare, and how do you perceive the role of women in the healthcare sector evolving?

Paula: “I believe there's nothing more precious to anyone than their health. We've come a long way from 200 years ago when our ability to improve health was very limited. The tools available to us today, in terms of preventive healthcare and our ability to treat a whole range of potentially debilitating conditions, are really exciting. Having the opportunity to train in a field where you can be part of implementing better healthcare for all is hugely appealing, and that's what interested me in a career in health.”

“I went into the pharma industry almost immediately, where I was interested in medical education, ensuring that medical professionals fully understand how to treat patients using medications at their disposal. I've spent most of my career working in international Medical Education, collaborating with global experts to improve the knowledge of consultants in specific fields, helping them better understand how to make better treatment decisions. Enabling people to start from scratch and have the confidence to say, "I don't fully understand this, and I'd feel more confident if I did," is liberating. And it benefits everyone when a healthcare provider understands as much as possible to achieve the best possible outcome for your health.”

Aoife: Do you think there are any barriers as a woman in the healthcare industry, and if so, how can they be overcome?

Paula: “No, it's never crossed my mind that there should be any barriers for women in anything, and that’s how I’ve seen myself since I was a child. I’ve always thought that men or women, girls or boys have equal potential to achieve anything and I still believe that.”

Aoife: In your experience, what initiatives or policies do you believe are necessary to promote gender equality and inclusion in the healthcare workforce?

Paula: “I think that the healthcare workforce doesn't stand out as being different from any other sector. I believe that men and women are equally capable of reaching the highest levels of competency or seniority in their field, and I think we see that really clearly when we examine recent graduates. When we look at the proportion of men and women entering the workforce in the most sought-after health fields, like medicine, veterinary, and pharmacy, certainly, we have moved from decades ago when it might have been a more male-dominated field. If anything, we can now see more women getting the necessary points to enter these courses and graduating top of their class. There's nothing preventing women entering and succeeding in their chosen field at the beginning of their careers. We can see in many areas women are actually outperforming their male counterparts and excelling in their careers. This is something I have researched and written about in my book. Women tend to reach junior management positions on average two years younger than their male counterparts; they tend to better prepare themselves and are often more qualified than their counterparts at the same age. So there really isn't an issue at the junior end of careers.”

“The point where inequality happens in all sectors is where there's a conflict between one's professional progression and one's personal life. This happens when we enter a stage in our life when we're responsible for dependent others. For some people, this could be children, for some older adults, ageing parents, or parents who are unwell long-term. Once you have dependents, the time available to you for both your professional job and your Invisible Job (of running a home and looking after dependents) is limited, and there's a time conflict that limits anyone’s ability to do both of these simultaneously.”

“To maintain equality between men and women, its key is that these responsibilities must be borne equally. The most important place to focus on this in our own lives is in our own relationships, as that's where we have the most influence. But government and employers have enormous potential to affect societal equality at scale; i.e. to ensure that we have processes in place to make it equally attractive and feasible for both men and women to attend to this invisible job of caring for dependents where it is needed"

“We must ensure that we encourage male and female workers to take these opportunities up. I think Clarity is a fantastic example of how you can fill gaps where certain members of your team have responsibilities that they need to tend to. It enables flexibility to switch people in and out of your professional team, so that others can maintain core responsibilities in their personal lives for a period. Sometimes we need the time flexibility to give attention to our caring responsibilities in terms of caring for a family member compared to our professional responsibilities and this fluctuates it goes up and down over the course of our lives. So it's important that employers recognise this and actively encourage all members of their teams to pursue these caring responsibilities when they need to, regardless of gender.”

Aoife: So touching on that, do you have any viewpoint in terms of the upcoming referendum that’s taking place on the 8th of March? I understand that the current referendum aims to change the existing phrasing in terms of ‘a woman’s place’, how do you think that ties in to these caring responsibilities and the equal sharing of the ‘invisible job’?

Paula: “I think that the current phrasing of article 41 of the constitution is quite patronising to women and for decades people have been quite disappointed that this forms part of our constitution. It’s unfortunate wording and we had an opportunity to amend this wording, to remove the suggestion that the hugely valuable work that happens within a home is somehow a duty exclusive to women and that mothers pursuing work outside the home constitutes ‘neglect of their duties’. But the new proposed wording is a wasted opportunity as instead of removing all mention of women/mothers, it should have made these ‘duties’ equally applicable to men/fathers.. Better still, instead of wasting time playing with the constitution, really what would have been more helpful is for the government to commit to putting in place the necessary financial supports to facilitate care of dependents, instead of watering down the existing commitment for providing adequate support from ‘shall ensure’ to ‘shall strive’.”

“Ireland has one of the most deficient systems of state provision in terms of childcare, and the care that we offer to older adults to continue to allow them to independently live in their own home. Equally we provide one of the poorest financial supports to dependents who are in greater need such as those with disabilities. So rather than wasting all time and money on a constitutional change, I feel that the government should have invested this money into putting in place tangible financial support that would enable all men and women with caring responsibilities to fulfil them in a way that doesn't preclude them pursuing their other necessary goals, such as earning an income. So I think the referendum doesn’t really bring us any further forward towards equality for women and men.”

Aoife: That's an interesting perspective, thank you for sharing that! What advice would you offer to aspiring women healthcare professionals who are just starting their careers?

Paula: “I would congratulate them on picking a fantastic and ever evolving field that will hopefully keep them stimulated for their whole lives, because it’s such an exciting field to work in. I would urge them to inform themselves of these future life responsibilities that we all face, but when we are in our 20’s, we are completely oblivious to. I would include myself here by the way, as when I was in my 20's I had absolutely no idea of what lay ahead! There is nothing that stands in your way of women reaching the height of their potential professionally, providing that you are not prevented from focusing on that by carrying an unequal share of the invisible job of looking after a home and dependents. “

“I would urge all young women and young men to fully inform themselves of what this invisible job entails as early as possible in their lives, and especially when you enter any long term relationship with a partner, because it’s a decision that needs to be made in fully informed manner and it needs to be made jointly, otherwise the default is that these responsibilities will be assumed largely by women. Currently, 72% of all of the unpaid caring work, looking after the home and dependents falls to women globally. Just to flag, same sex couples are much better at sharing these responsibilities equally; the problem really only arises in heterosexual couples.”

“That is the most critical factor that holds women back in terms of reaching their personal potential in life, not only in their careers, but in other spheres, where they can have influence, even outside of their chosen sectors, for example maybe in politics or having a positive impact in society in other ways. If you believe in an equal partnership it’s really important that one partner doesn’t hold the other partner back and that there is a give and take flexibility that recognises the evolution of our needs, desires and time constraints as we age from our 20s through our 30s, 40s and 50s. Where it is not equal and one partner is doing more than the other, it has a very detrimental impact on the happiness and security of that relationship and in the worst-case scenario will end in divorce.”

“Sharing this responsibility equally is the key to equality in relationships and the key to equality in work. The alternative to this is that some of the most capable women, those who reach managerial level first, who you would think have the potential to be the future CEOs of your business or organisation, those women, if they are carrying an unfair burden of this invisible work, it’s simply mathematically impossible to excel both professionally as well as fulfilling the internal demands that they place on themselves to look after the needs of dependents.”

“What happens is that those highly capable women, instead of moving to the top level in their late 30s/mid 40s, often move backwards in their career or leave the workforce altogether. Currently 42% of women with degrees are unemployed or choosing not to re-enter the workforce. We are losing such enormous potential and employers who want to retain their key female talent need to ensure that they have set up a system that doesn’t allow for this to happen. By ensuring that men and women are equally recognised and actively encouraged to fulfil all of their personal commitments as caring humans, in addition to being healthcare professionals / workers.”

Paula's contributions to this conversation, remind us of the importance of addressing systemic barriers and promoting gender equality at every level. Fostering inclusion is not only essential in the workplace but it needs to start in our own home, in our partnerships and relationships. Achieving gender parity would mean ensuring that men and women have equal opportunities, rights, and access to resources, regardless of their gender. According to the World Economic Forum, we are currently approximately 131 years away from achieving gender parity. This year's International Women’s Day campaign theme highlights the pivotal role of inclusion in realising gender equality. It calls for proactive measures to dismantle barriers, challenge stereotypes, and cultivate environments where all women are esteemed and valued.

On this International Women’s Day, I extend an invitation to all individuals, including men and anyone who champions equal rights and human rights, to take a moment for introspection. Reflect on how your actions either contribute to or hinder the progress of gender equality, and assess where changes can be made to actively advance this cause in a positive manner. As the International Women's Day organisation so appropriately states, "When the treatment of women is not equitable, we must take action. And we must do this each time, every time".

You can find out more about Paula’s work and about the ‘Invisible Job’ in her website here at

Listen to Paula’s podcast

Posted on 06 March 2024
Share This Article

Need anything?

First of all check out our FAQs section, it might just have what you need.

ROI +353 1 532 5441 | UK +44 2033227225 | NZL + 64 27 220 0494
[email protected]