Panel discussions hear women have a long way to go for gender equality

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Credit: Catherine Devine

We shouldn’t be celebrating the fact that only 35 women were elected to the Dáil, according to Louise Glennon, co-ordinator with the National Women’s Council, at Accenture’s International Women’s Day in the Dublin Convention Centre today.

“That 22.2 per cent… we shouldn’t be celebrating,” said Glennon at the event, which celebrated the women of the 1916 rising and the future for women in the next 100 years.

“Even the women’s role in the constitution is still protected, I’d like to see that and the 8th Amendment repealed,” said Glennon.

The range of panellists also agreed that the Irish workplace won’t be gender equal until we have affordable childcare.

Professor Louise Richardson, Vice Chancellor of the University of Oxford, stressed the importance of affordable childcare to allow women to obtain leadership roles at work. “When I was a professor at Harvard, I was spending more on childcare than I was earning,” said Richardson.

Richardson also recalls a time where day-care would close at five, but she would have board meetings until six. “For 18 months I had my child under the table at meetings. I’d be asked for my opinion on a sub-section of a document, but my child would be eating it under the table. It shouldn’t be this hard in society to combine childcare and employment. For the women who choose to combine work and family life, society owes them more affordable help,” said Richardson.

Dr Rhona Mahoney, Master of The National Maternity Hospital said that they key choices she had to make were trying to balance life and family. “I work long hours, nights and days. There’s very little left for my family when I get home. I had three small children and was constantly travelling,” said Mahoney. “With work it’s all or nothing …some of the most difficult decisions I’ve made were about my family.”

“We need to talk more about women having babies and acknowledge that women have young families and careers. We need to stop this gender stereotyping,” said Mahoney.

Sharon McCooey, Senior Director at LinkedIn, agreed that a big problem for women with careers is how to juggle family life and their careers. “I took three years off to raise my two young kids and then focused on re-entering the workplace,” said McCooey. “I’m a big fan of making lists. I made a list of things that suited me and where I turned up best. LinkedIn was starting in Ireland and I knew it was my dream job.”

Conor O’Leary, Company secretary of Greencore and a member of the 30 per cent club was one of the few men in attendance at the event. “I don’t see the representation of females as a female issue. It’s a human issue,” he said. “It needs to be acknowledged by men. The diversity between men and women should be embraced. Diversity on a board leads to a better work ethos.”

Catherine Devine

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