‘If I have an opinion, I will not be silenced...’

We continue our series marking International Women's Day, today, March 8
‘If I have an opinion, I will not be silenced...’

Miss Cork Zoe Hendrick

Miss Cork Zoe Hendrick

Growing up, I would rarely see women in high positions in jobs or government. I told myself, when I grow up I am going to #ChooseToChallenge this stigma.

Ladies such as Kamala Harris, Michelle Obama and Mary Jackson have been role models for me growing up. To make noise and to be heard, not to take things quietly.

If I have an opinion, I will not be silenced, and I encourage every women to do the same. If you are in a meeting room and have an idea, speak up and say your piece. Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.

Winning Miss Cork was just the first step on my journey. While entering, I was told a girl of colour will never win. I wanted to challenge this stigma and prove them wrong. Women can achieve anything they want when they put their minds to it.

Sian Horn, The Straight Talking Business mentor Founder Bebelle.ie
Sian Horn, The Straight Talking Business mentor Founder Bebelle.ie

Sian Horn, The Straight Talking Business mentor Founder Bebelle.ie

As a coach, the biggest challenges I come across for women daily all come down to confidence.

We battle with the voices in our heads that may tell us we’re not able enough to fulfil our dreams. When I start speaking to myself like that, it’s so important to first catch it and secondly to reverse it. I always do my best to speak to yourself as you would with your best friend.

To help me with my confidence, I recognise the power of the women I surround myself with. The women who support, encourage, promote and guide me daily to be the best version of myself. These women give me the power I need to be unpologetically ME and allow me to have boundaries without question.

Boundaries are a challenge all of their own and one as women we can find difficult to implement. When you surround yourself with the right people, they don’t question them.

One woman can achieve so much but when women get together, real MAGIC happens.

Sinead Ryan, Marketing & Communications Officer with the Irish Association of Youth Orchestras
Sinead Ryan, Marketing & Communications Officer with the Irish Association of Youth Orchestras

Sinead Ryan, Marketing & Communications Officer with the Irish Association of Youth Orchestras

Working in the arts, and the youth music sector in particular, I am incredibly fortunate to have worked with amazing women. However, it is difficult not to notice that, while the majority of us in arts administration are women, many of the top, high-earning jobs are filled by men. This is also true for performers, composers and conductors.

While I know I would like to think that I am challenging gender bias in the sector and doing everything I can to actively encourage women, I don’t think I can honestly say that I am…there is more I could do. I am going to challenge myself to do everything I can to not let this happen.

I will strive to instill in the young musicians that I meet through work and in everyday life the importance of not just accepting — that they have the power to challenge gender bias and inequalities!

Chairperson of Cork Environmental Forum, Dr Shirley Gallagher SysPro;Systems for Progress Limited
Chairperson of Cork Environmental Forum, Dr Shirley Gallagher SysPro;Systems for Progress Limited

Chairperson of Cork Environmental Forum, Dr Shirley Gallagher, SysPro;Systems for Progress Limited

This phrase by Rita Sharma sums up the difference in gender to me:

Give a man a fish and he eats for a day.

Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.

But teach a woman to fish, and everyone eats for a lifetime.

(From the introduction of Teach a Woman to Fish: Overcoming Poverty around the Globe (Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2014)

We have lived in a patriarchal society that is broken. Covid-19 is giving us a chance to sit back, digest and ask, ‘is this the world we want to live in?’

While we do, we need to remember to stand up for our rights, to ask for help when we cannot help ourselves, and to support those that are not able to do so themselves. It is about respect and being valued and that is why I #choosetochallenge.

As an aside to all this who went before us. I received the Nana Benz Necklace from my daughter for Christmas, 2020. In the 1970s, the nana Benz girls made their fortunes selling wax print designs. Nicknamed for the Mercedes they used to drive around town, they were the ultimate vintage girl gang. I wear it loud and wear it proud

Clara Walsh, Workvivo
Clara Walsh, Workvivo

Clara Walsh, Workvivo

I want every person to have equal opportunities and support to reach their full potential. In my role I #ChooseToChallenge gender stereotypes and bias to ensure our culture at Workvivo is truly inclusive.

Rachel Gleeson, Assistant Producer at Corcadorca Theatre Company
Rachel Gleeson, Assistant Producer at Corcadorca Theatre Company

Rachel Gleeson, Assistant Producer at Corcadorca Theatre Company

At the 2019 Oscars, Amy Poehler received a round of applause for declaring that all actresses are best supporting actresses, because women naturally support each other.

Without strong female relationships, the world would not function. Let’s challenge ourselves to allow this level of support to ripple outwards from our most intimate friendships into how we respond to all instances of gender inequality.

This International Women’s Day, let’s give thanks to the women who support us, and reflect on how best to spread that support to women across our country and our world.

Dr Alison O’Shea, Assistant Lecturer in Computer Science at MTU

I have a PhD in physiological signal processing and I love using engineering to solve important problems in the world.

Working as an engineer, I must challenge my own personal biases and the societal biases that I see each day to make the technology industry more inclusive and welcoming to those who have traditionally been under-represented.

In order to enact change, we must all challenge the inequality that we see to create a more equal and diverse world.

I would not be here without the brilliant trailblazers who came before me, this is why I #ChooseToChallenge.

Sharon Rynne, Boning Hall Manager, Kepak Cork
Sharon Rynne, Boning Hall Manager, Kepak Cork

Sharon Rynne, Boning Hall Manager, Kepak Cork

For me #choosetochallenge means taking a proactive approach towards achieving gender balance in both my professional and personal life.

Professionally, I never think of gender as a barrier when looking at career opportunities. Currently, in my role as Boning Hall Manager for Kepak Cork, I lead a team that is 90% male. I have a fantastic team and I believe that is due to good communication.

Historically, the meat industry has been male dominated; however, there are great career opportunities for women. Within Kepak Cork the senior management team is 45% female and I receive great support from both my male and female colleagues.

On a personal note, I’m very involved in sport and I think strong female coaches are hugely important. Seeing Is Believing: female role models inspire young women to be more ambitious and aim higher.

Network West Cork President, Katherine O Sullivan Katherine works in Senior Management in O'Donnell Design Ltd
Network West Cork President, Katherine O Sullivan Katherine works in Senior Management in O'Donnell Design Ltd

Network West Cork President, Katherine O’Sullivan

Katherine works in Senior Management in O’Donnell Design Ltd T/a O’Donnell Furniture Makers, a male dominated luxury furniture supplier to the construction industry. She knows the importance of challenging the norm:

We are all the owners of our own thoughts and actions so Choose to Challenge.

Challenge those who doubt you. Challenge those who undermine you. Challenge those who take credit for your work. We grow stronger when we grow together. Choose to Challenge and Embrace the change.

Majella Galvin.
Majella Galvin.

West Cork sisters, Majella and Caroline Galvin, auctioneers

They are leading the way as female property professionals. This career path is second nature to the sisters as their father, Michael, is an established auctioneer.

Following in their father’s footsteps, into a traditionally male dominant industry, the sisters know first-hand the challenges of getting women into the limelight and it is a change for the better.

Majella encourages businesswomen to support each other and says women bring creativity and a different perspective to the table.

Caroline adds: Emotion is at the heart of buying and selling property. Women have a natural ability to understand the emotions attached to selling your childhood or family home.”

Dr Danielle O’Donovan
Dr Danielle O’Donovan

Dr Danielle O’Donovan, Nano Nagle Place

I’m a working mother, who had a working mother. I’m the Programme Manager at Nano Nagle Place. I’m inspired by my work because Nano Nagle was a woman out of her time. She had the choice to do nothing but chose to take risks to do what she felt was right — to offer children an education.

When men (more than one) wanted her to ask permission or to do what they thought best, she was undeterred and followed the strength of her own convictions. Her legacy is on-going. Although we live in a different time, in circumstances far removed from Nano Nagle, as women we still face challenges, particularly now when our workplace is also our home. My daughter has her little desk set up next to mine; we are working side by side. I teach her to do her best and follow the strength of her own convictions.

Michelle Johnson, CEO, ASA Group.
Michelle Johnson, CEO, ASA Group.

Michelle Johnson, CEO, ASA Group.

As I say to my teenage daughter — Be the best you can be today and everyday — keep challenging the norms.

Catherine O’Driscoll, Solarwinds
Catherine O’Driscoll, Solarwinds

Catherine O’Driscoll, Solarwinds

I believe that how we treat each other has a paramount impact. I am blessed to have worked with and to continue to work with amazing women that have shown me we are not in competition with each other but should be champions of each other.

I choose every day to continue that chain and echo that message by supporting and celebrating other females in all aspects of their careers and lives. And I challenge you to look at how you too can provide a positive platform for recognising other women’s achievements; to celebrate the possible so that all women can believe nothing is impossible.

Colette Finn, Green Party councillor elected to Cork City Council for the South West
Colette Finn, Green Party councillor elected to Cork City Council for the South West

Colette Finn, Green Party councillor elected to Cork City Council for the South West

I really feel there is a growing momentum for women to challenge the systems that have evolved. Too many men at the decision-making table and unaware of how the world is made up of two sexes.

The absence of females voices I believe has led to care for ourselves and our ecosystem being ignored. We do this at our peril. Therefore it is vital women take on the task of challenging the status quo.

Cadet Laoise Mulcahy with her classmates.
Cadet Laoise Mulcahy with her classmates.

Members of the Irish navy have also supported the campaign.

I am Lt (NS) Aoife Campbell, Executive Officer and Second in Command on board LE JAMES JOYCE. I stand for greater diversity in the workplace. Having more diversity in the Defence Forces is a force multiplier and a positive for the organisation. 

Lt (NS) Aoife Campbell on LE JAMES JOYCE,
Lt (NS) Aoife Campbell on LE JAMES JOYCE,

It leads to enhanced innovation and a more effective team. I would love to see more women in the Naval Service, and would encourage anyone who has even considered it as a career to apply, especially if you are looking for a career that is seas away from an office desk.

Laoise Mulcahy currently i Cadet training.
Laoise Mulcahy currently i Cadet training.

My name is Cadet Laoise Mulcahy. I am 18 years old and from Naas, County Kildare. I decided to sign up for the cadetship competition in my final year of secondary school hopeful to receive a naval Cadetship. I have family history in the Defence Forces and a career in the Navy always appealed to me and was an experience I wanted to gain. The training so far has been both challenging and rewarding for myself and my classmates. 

The cadetship has offered us many opportunities and we have learned lots of new skills. In the beginning we had the opportunity to train in the Defence Forces Training Centre, Curragh camp where we were challenged physically and mentally, this phase also allowed us to build relationships with the Army and Air corps Cadets. 

Since returning to the Naval Base in 2021 we have had the opportunity to complete many courses such as personal survival training, introduction to Weapons systems and Naval warfare, Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat course, physical fitness as well as continuous navigation, chart work and military leadership . The overall experience is very enjoyable and I look forward to a career in the Naval service as it offers opportunity for growth and development and is a career with great variety.

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