Bank of Ireland celebrated International Women’s Day supporting gender diversity in the workplace conference in Limerick

Bank of Ireland celebrated International Women’s Day 2019 by supporting the 11th International Women’s Day Conference at the University of Limerick. The event shed light on the importance of gender diversity in the workplace and the significance of female representation at all levels of business.

The conference was chaired by Catherine Duff, general manager at Northern Trust and was addressed by inspirational female leaders including; Gillian Harford, county executive 30% Club Ireland, Professor Helen Kelly Holmes, dean faculty of arts, humanities and social sciences at UL and Vicky Phelan, cervical cancer activist.

Bank of Ireland is hosting a series of gender diversity seminars taking place nationwide as part of its campaign #BalanceForBetter. This campaign is highlighting the positive impact women have in the workplace and the value they add at all levels of a business.

Addressing the conference, Andrew Keating, group chief financial officer at Bank of Ireland said, “Bank of Ireland has developed the #BalanceForBetter campaign to encourage better awareness of gender diversity in the workplace and the importance of women being in senior leadership roles. We have heard from a number of inspirational female leaders here today and this conference, along with Bank of Ireland seminars rolling out nationwide, are demonstrating the importance for all businesses to work towards better gender balance at all levels within their organisation.”

“It’s a proven fact that the greater the diversity, the greater the innovation, and greater innovation leads to greater commercial success.”

By 2021, all appointments or promotions for senior grades in Bank of Ireland will be split 50:50, male and female. They group have already made great progress and are well on course to reach their target.

“Men, including myself, have long enjoyed the unfair advantage of achieving our ambitions, while many women couldn’t do so. It’s a proven fact that the greater the diversity, the greater the innovation, and greater innovation leads to greater commercial success,” added Keating.

In closing his keynote speech, he said, “I don’t want my son Darragh to have more opportunities than his sister Aisling based of his gender, and I don’t want Aisling to have more opportunities than Darragh, I just want equality and a better balance for all.”

Does better balance mean better business?

Gillian Harford, country executive of the 30% Club, gave a powerful talk on diversity in Ireland stating that while progress is being made, females are still massively underrepresented in leadership positions across all sectors in Ireland. “Ireland is one of the best countries in the world for equal education with 56% of undergrads being women, but we are not seeing this have an effect on leadership roles with just 18% of positions on boards being occupied by females.”

“I&D is not a numbers game, and it’s not about women winning and men losing, it’s about capitalising all talents. ”

She continued, “Diversity is not important unless you have inclusion. Diversity means I’m here, but inclusion means I’m heard.

“I&D is not a numbers game, and it’s not about women winning and men losing, it’s about capitalising all talents. Better balance means we give everyone an equal opportunity to thrive and break down barriers,” she finished.

Also discussing the topic with an onus on vulnerability, Mary T. Tierney, from Azurite Consulting Ltd, discussed why creativity and innovation is what make businesses thrive, and why we need an equal balance in order to thrive.

She also talked about how people feel ashamed about their vulnerabilities and “run as far away as possible” from them.

“Vulnerability is not a weakness. It’s our most accurate method for courage – in fact it’s our only pathway to courage. We need to start having the correct conversations without worrying about possible implications or opinions. Embracing vulnerability is a minute-by-minute choice as it happens every single day,” said Tierney.

Powerful women and leadership

Professor Helen Kelly Holmes, dean of the faculty of arts, humanities and social sciences at the University of Limerick said women are really starting to be heard, drawing on the Repeal referendum last year, which “gave a great insight into the power women have in Ireland”. Historically, to be a powerful woman was to act like a man when in a position of power, according to Holmes, but this has now changed.

“Having women in positions of leadership isn’t about having a woman ruling over everyone else. It’s about having women in positions where they have a voice and can effect change,” before discussing her own industry, saying, “A lot of statistics show that universities are problematic institutions for women. They are incredibly slow to change and are very conservative institutions.”

“Women will only apply for senior positions when they believe they meet 100% of the criteria in a job description – whereas men are likely to apply if they only meet 50% of the criteria.”

Dr Christine Cross, head of department, work and employment studies at UL echoed Holmes’ thoughts and spoke about ‘gendered language’ and the role it plays in recruitment.

“There are a number of words that are considered ‘gendered language’ so we need to be cognisant of this when writing job descriptions so that we are encouraging more females to apply for roles and take risks.

“Women will only apply for senior positions when they believe they meet 100% of the criteria in a job description – whereas men are likely to apply if they only meet 50% of the criteria.

“Visibility is six times more important than your performance to move up the ladder into senior positions. Women need to be putting themselves out there more,” she concluded.

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