Virginia Foley, UpSheRises
“I think the first challenge women have is within themselves. Many women are afraid to step up and believe in themselves. I therefore choose to challenge women first; to look inwards and decide what work would really fulfill them and then lean into that with conviction.
We live in an age where we can completely redefine what our work/life balance can look like if we are unapologetically brave enough to challenge ourselves. Only when we find that voice can we look to then make change in the workforce and in society.
I would like to challenge organisations to create exclusive opportunities for working mothers that will allow them to contribute in a more valuable and meaningful way without compromising the family unit. I would also like to challenge the government to rewrite article 41.2 of the Irish Constitution which references the woman’s place being in the home.
Gillian McGrath, Founder of www.changegrowsucceed.com
There have been countless studies carried out that advocate the business case for increased diversity and inclusion in the workplace, benefits regularly cited include innovation, creativity and financial performance. However, with the Covid-19 pandemic set to put women back by almost a decade in the workplace, never has the world needed to embrace and lean in to the powerful moral message of inclusivity, as well as belief and hope as we navigate our changing world.
How can we be THE difference while accepting full responsibility for our thoughts and behaviours?
We can start by challenging ourselves on our own personal narrative around gender bias and inequality. We can ask ourselves, what does this mean to me and why do I care? Courageously, we can share our stories and lived experiences. We can connect and empathise with our colleagues and leaders, both for support and accountability. Once we begin to make this topic relational, collectively, we can create a future different to the past.
Let’s be role-models to ourselves and for each other. With courage and curiosity, let’s #ChooseToChallenge and play our role in creating a more inclusive environment. One where everyone belongs, can contribute and feel valued. “
Tricia Cruz, Workvivo
To me, International Women’s Day is about recognising and celebrating all the amazing women in my life — family, friends and work colleagues – and the impressive work they do every day. It is also a reminder of how far we have come towards achieving gender equality in the workplace and community, but also of how far we have yet to go. I raise my hand high to show my commitment to #ChooseToChallenge the status quo and to step up and play my role in helping bring about a more diverse and inclusive world.
Georgina Foley, Green Rebel Marine
This shouldn’t even be a topic of discussion. I’m putting my hand up so my daughter and all future generations never have to shine a light on this. Let them focus on addressing other world challenges such as climate change.
Bernadette Connolly, Cork Environmental Forum Coordinator
I am very aware of gender imbalances and choose to challenge. I am lucky to work in a sector that is very representative of women, with many of the eNGOs having key positions such as Coordinators or Directors represented by women.
I have also had the experience throughout my life of great female role models, within my family, my friends and in different work situations. I grew up with three brothers and two sisters and always felt on a par and appreciate the fortunate situation of living in Ireland as I have also lived in countries where there is much more inequality and discrimination towards women and girls.
However, the glass ceiling may be shattering here but it certainly has not been broken down in all areas of life, we just have to look at some professional sectors.
The prism of Covid has highlighted particular issues such as domestic violence which women experience to a greater degree and the fact that globally women represent 70% of the health and social sector workforce.
We need to deliver on the goals of SDG5, Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. Women too are key to a sustainable future and have proven to be leading the way towards more equitable and sustainable solutions to climate change.
Louise Riordan, Manager, Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, UCC
I #choosetochallenge period poverty. I challenge the Irish government to follow through on their commitment to make sanitary products freely available in schools, universities, hospitals, Direct Provision centres, refuges, garda stations and prisons. Scotland is the first country in the world to offer free universal access to period products, and shows it can be done.
Lynda Moore, Midwife and Chair of Midwives Section INMO
I #choosetochallenge the lack of a Chief Midwifery Officer in Ireland. We need investment in midwifery leadership to promote the best health outcomes for mothers and babies.
We need representation at the highest levels of government to give voice to issues that affect midwives and the choices offered to women. Midwives want low risk women to have more choice in their labour care and are concerned at the high rates of interventions.
Midwives are concerned that the choices women have depend on their location. For example, waterbirth is an option for women in the Coombe, Dublin and Wexford areas but has been disallowed at present for home births.
Home visits for postnatal women have commenced in Limerick and Drogheda but have been pulled in Cork and some hospitals in Dublin. We are concerned at the reduction in breastfeeding services during the pandemic and the potential impact on breastfeeding for women and their babies.
A Chief Midwife is the voice for women and midwives, a door into government policy, an overseer of the maternity services. The World Health Organisation calls for a Chief Midwifery Officer for every country. We need to advocate for women in Ireland and not be in fear of speaking up.
Sandra Murphy, Trigon Hotels
I was brought up in a home where both sexes were equal and also where opportunities were equal.
From a professional perspective, I have not experienced gender-based discrimination, but I am acutely aware that so many women do. Women make up 50% of the population and we are entitled to equality in all areas — particularly, we deserve to sit at the table where decisions are being made.
From a political perspective, we need to strive to have more females elected in order to ensure that there is a balance of interests represented.
From personal experience, female healthcare is poor in areas in Ireland — I know this, as I had to travel to the UK for surgery as there was insufficient skill in the particular discipline in Ireland.
Clearly, as it was not prioritised. I firmly believe that if we had gender equality, these interests and priorities would be brought to the forefront. With the theme this year #ChooseToChallenge — we, as a society, need to put our hands up and challenge when we see inequality. I certainly have had experiences where questions were posed to me that would never be asked of a man. I have also experienced comments — whether it be about style or appearance — that again, would rarely be experienced by a man. But, together, we need to challenge this behaviour to show that it is no longer acceptable.
Maebh McCarthy, Chairperson of UCC Government and Politics Society and Deputy News Editor of the University Express
I am a second year law student at UCC. I choose to challenge gender bias and inequality in the areas of politics, journalism and law. These areas have been typically dominated by males but, with challenge comes change. There should be no sector, career or path that should exclude people of a specific gender. We can call out bias and create an inclusive world. To do so, I believe we must continue to empower, amplify and support women’s voices and achievements.