International Women’s Day takes place on Friday March 8th and to celebrate, we’re running a week-long content takeover featuring interviews with some of Ireland’s leading females.  

“Whatever we possess comes of double value when we have the opportunity of sharing it with others,” wrote Jean-Nicolas Bouilly, the French playwright and politician of the French Revolution. It was during that same revolution when 7,000 French women marched from Paris to Versailles, demanding an end to the harsh economic situations they faced, including widespread poverty and food shortages. Recognising their own strength against the mighty monarchy the angry mob demanded King Louis XVI agree to their terms, thus giving birth to France’s ground-breaking call for gender equality. 

236 years later and Bank of Ireland, (established by Royal Charter during that same revolution) has begun our own gender equality journey. Long-time readers of ThinkBusiness will remember last year, our inaugural week-long celebration for International Women’s Day and the global Press for Progress campaign. Our CEO Francesca McDonagh committed to increase the number of women in top roles by 2021, we hosted a series of bespoke events addressing pay and parenting, the promotion paradox and gender diversity in the workplace, along with extensive thought leadership from Brid Horan (30% Club, Ireland), Kim Mackenzie Doyle (WhyDesign) and Andrew Keating (Chief Financial Officer, Bank of Ireland Group) amongst others. 

This year to coincide with International Women’s Day, we try to do justice to the theme: balance for better, bringing you week long (March 4th-8th) activities from across Bank of Ireland Group (Ireland, Northern Ireland and the UK) which include 40+ especially designed and delivered events by our colleagues and partnering collaborators and devoted content on ThinkBusiness from people who are transforming the ways we see the world and ourselves. 

Liv McGill talks with dynamo Orla O’Connor, director of the National Women’s Council of Ireland about mobilising women into leadership and the their campaigns for political quotas. Supermac’s co-founder Una McDonagh gives an honest and inspirational account of how she (and her co-founder and husband) built Ireland’s largest indigenous fast food groups. Erini Evangelia Psychari captures the brave realities of being the only female governor in an all-male prison, defying the old boys club, the strong-willed Ethel Gavin has risen from the social services to now being responsible for more than 850 inmates in the largest prison in Ireland. Gavin and McDonagh will feature at the Bank of Ireland Longford-Westmeath round table lunch on March 8th.

We interview Professor Jane Ohlmeyer about the diversity debt in Ireland’s universities, chair of Bristol Women’s Voice Penny Gane on Bristol’s city-wide Zero Tolerance initiative aimed at preventing gender based violence and Gillan Harford, Country Executive 30% Club about achieving better balance in opportunities, appointments and encouraging talent equally.  Catriona Campbell examines the role of advertising in changing stereotypes and our week long celebration is rounded off with the inspirational WhyDesign event on March 8th (at No.22 Anne Street South) featuring design world heavy weights Natasha Jen, partner at Pentagram (New York) and Thierry Brunfaut, co-founder and creative director at Base Design (New York, Brussels, Geneva).

Intimate, spirited and deep, our celebration of International Women’s Day is for those who care about this conversation – about the importance of championing women as well as men – about the conversations that have been simmering for years – that’s its only through the collaboration of all genders can we truly achieve balance. 

By Lesley Tully.

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