From 'Lady Clerks to CEO': A Biographical Narrative of the Challenges, Opportunities, and Educational Programmes for Female Bank Workers since the lifting of the Irish Marriage Bar.

Kate O'Keeffe, Aisling Tuite, Zeta Dooly

Research output: Contribution to conferencePresentation


This particular research sits within the interpretivist paradigm, aligned with the relativist ontology, social constructivist epistemology and axiology of the researcher. Alongside the anniversary of Ireland’s joining the EEC (now EU), 2023 marks 50 years since a further historic event. The Irish Marriage Bar was a legislative basis on which women were dismissed (on marriage) from certain occupations. Although it only legally applied to those working in the Civil Service, it was implemented in both the Public and the Private Sector.

Ireland was not the only jurisdiction in which a Marriage Bar existed, but it was by far the longest-lasting. The Irish societal context, specifically the pervasive (cultural) influence of the Catholic Church, gives insight as to how the bar endured for so long. The literature traces the establishment of the Marriage Bar, the society in which it survived and thrives, and its eventual abolition in 1973. However, there is a notable knowledge gap whereby the voices of the women affected can be heard. This researcher considers the application of this ‘institutionalised gender discrimination’ (Mosca and Wright, 2020, p. 6) in banking organisations and financial institutions particularly. The research methodology stems from the philosophical foundations, as outlined above.

Primarily, the study sits within a phenomenological space; the researcher is concerned with the ‘meaning of lived experiences for [research participants]’ (Creswell, 1997, p. 51). An inductive inquiry approach is undertaken, whereby ‘primacy [is given to] understanding people’s everyday experience of reality… so as to gain an understanding of the phenomena in quest.’ (Braun and Clarke, 2006, p. 8) The primary focus is the ‘emergent data themes, concepts and dimensions.’ (Gioia, Corley and Hamilton, 2013, p. 21)

However, the researcher is cognisant that she must acknowledge her own ‘epistemological commitments’ (Braun and Clarke, 2006, p. 12) at each stage of the research process. It is therefore necessary to act as reflexive practitioner, critically evaluating the approach to and interpretation of data which is collected.

Wengraf’s (2001) iteration of the Biographic Narrative Interpretive Method (BNIM) forms the basis of the semi-structured interviews whereby primary data is collected. These interviews are divided into two sub-sessions, with the option for a third sub-session post preliminary data analysis. In the first sub-session, the research intervenes as little as possible.

An open question invites the participants to recall the important events over the course of their career. On foot of this, the researcher takes notes on which the questions of sub-session two are based. The purpose of sub-session two is to delve deeper into the concepts and themes which are introduced by the participant. An iterative approach to data analysis involves the application of the six phase approach described by Braun and Clarke (2006).

The research is concerned with exploring the scarring effect of the Marriage Bar and its limitation of women’s participation in leadership roles within banking organisations, thereby identifying the challenges, pathways and gatekeepers to career advancement.
Original languageEnglish (Ireland)
Publication statusUnpublished - 13 Sep 2023
EventBritish Sociological Association Work, Employment and Society - Glasgow Caledonian University , Glasgow , United Kingdom
Duration: 13 Sep 202315 Sep 2023


ConferenceBritish Sociological Association Work, Employment and Society
Abbreviated titleBSA WES
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


Dive into the research topics of 'From 'Lady Clerks to CEO': A Biographical Narrative of the Challenges, Opportunities, and Educational Programmes for Female Bank Workers since the lifting of the Irish Marriage Bar.'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this