Cork, Limerick, Galway, Kilkenny and Dublin were the hosts for a series of events, powered by Bank of Ireland, to celebrate International Women’s Day 2018.

iwd cork bank of ireland 2018

Pay and parenting, the promotion paradox, gender diversity in the workplace and what makes an entrepreneur were all on the agenda at the 2018 programme of events to celebrate International Women’s Day.

Audience members at the seven events dotted around the country were shocked to learn that gender equality is still more than 200 years away, according to estimates by the World Economic Forum.

Laura Mellett from Bank of Ireland kicked off events in Cork on a positive note, focusing on the global momentum for change being pioneered by women.

“With the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, women are making positive gains,” said Laura. “There is a strong business case for empowering women. Collective intelligence and gender balance within decision making impact the bottom line of organisations.”

“The system is broken.”

The promotion paradox

It is clear that women are equally qualified as men to lead in the workplace, but they occupy far fewer top jobs. This unsatisfactory reality leads to the theme for the night’s discussion – “Empowerment: Overcoming the Promotion Paradox”.

cork int womens day

Speakers included Niamh Bushnell, founder and CEO of TechIreland, Comdt. Eoghan Mc Dermott, gender, equality and diversity officer for the Irish Defence Forces, Dr. Orla Flynn, vice president of external affairs at Cork Institute of Technology and Grainne O’Donovan, co-founder and partner at Douglas Law Solicitors. There was a keynote address from Derval O Rourke, world-class hurdler turned business owner.

They highlighted the importance of mentors, women making their voices heard and the need for support for women going back to work.

“We need new ways of measuring careers.”

“It takes time to get research back on track after maternity or care leave,” said Orla. “In terms of research funding and applications, they look for a track record. We need new ways of measuring careers. It should be about more than just consistency over the years.”

An equal split when it comes to childcare responsibilities, as well as better support from the state were appealed for.

“There needs to be more flexibility around childcare and working hours,” said Derval. “It shouldn’t just fall on the woman to figure it out. It’s not a female issue, it’s a parenting issue.”

Niamh was in agreement.

“The cost and lack of tax relief for childcare in Ireland mean women have to choose between it and staying at home. The system is broken.”

She highlighted a new phenomenon of senior executives working from wherever they want without it being seen as taking their foot off the gas. She believes it will change the way we view flexible working.

“We need to recognise that women are equal but different.”

Equal but different

In Galway speakers on gender diversity in the workplace included Martin McGeough, founder and medical director of FireFly foot and ankle clinics, professor Anne Scott, vice president for equality and diversity in NUI Galway, Deirdre McLoughlin, leadership and resilience couch, Laura Lynch of Laura Lynch & Associates and Loretta Ni Gabhain, founder of Lorg Media.

“Women continue to carry the bulk of home and childcare burdens,” said Anne. “They may need flexible working hours, which can reduce chances of promotion. We need to recognise that women are equal but different. Not only should women not feel embarrassed that they need to take time out to have their babies, they should be properly supported. In academia, women should be phased back into work with a returner’s grant.”

The middle of the week saw a whole conference devoted to the 2018 International Women’s Day motto ‘press for progress’ in University Limerick.

Speakers included Fiona de Búrca, Meliosa O’Caoimh, Michelle Keating, co-founder and chair of Women for Election, Carol Widger, Maples and Calder’s Investment Funds group, Bob Savage, vice president for Manufacturing and GM DellEMC, David Wallace and Dr. Brenda Romera.

The day continued with a discussion on the challenges of getting more women into STEM. Speakers included Sarah Tully, executive lead of R&D, Higher Education, Bank of Ireland, professor Edmond Magner, University of Limerick, Kyran Johnson, general manager, Janssen Sciences Ireland, Dr. Mary Moloney, lecturer and researcher at CIT & iWish, followed by a panel discussion on the topic.

“The Emmy award-winning designer championed the importance of not underselling yourself.”

annie atkins

Better pay

Creatives from Kilkenny came out in force to an event on gender equality in the creative sector.

Anna O’Sullivan, director of Butler Gallery said while many of the museums and publicly run galleries are populated by women, the long hours are not fairly remunerated.

On International Women’s Day itself, Design Ireland launched WhyDesign, an initiative aimed at second level female designers, their parents, teachers and guidance councillors, to inform on what design is and careers available.

Annie Atkins (left), an Oscar-winning designer and Chris Do, an Emmy award-winning designer championed the importance of not underselling yourself when it comes estimating the value of your work, as well as being confident and true to yourself.

“The future of leadership looks different and that difference is diversity.”

The entrepreneurial mindset

Female innovators gathered at the House of Lords in Dublin to discuss the entrepreneurial mindset. Speaking were professor Maura McAdam from DCU, Amy Burke (below left) from Bank of Ireland and Sarita Johnston from Enterprise Ireland.

The role of the entrepreneur in driving innovation within organisations was discussed by Karen Malone from Centaur, Mary McKenna from Tour America and Garvan Callan from Bank of Ireland.

At the event to talk about making a career out of innovation and risk-taking were Clare McHugh, Axonista, Patricia Scanlon, Soapbox Labs, Dr Nora Khaldi, Nuritas and Liz Fulham, SalesOptimize as well as Aine Kerr, co-founder of Neva Labs, a startup developing solutions for people who want conscious control of their news experience.

amy burke

Diversity pays

Upsetting the status quo was high on the agenda as well as the importance of taking risks and collaborative working.

Aine stressed that the future of leadership looks different and that difference is diversity.

“Diversity drives innovation, it leads to greater profitability, a lower turnover rate and it’s easier to recruit in a competitive market. Millennials want to work in collaborative teams, to face challenges together. It leads to more creative, confident and efficient teams.”

The week’s events came to a close with a panel discussion in Trinity College on powering STEM.

Article by Olivia McGill. 

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