Women in Business

Friday the 8th of March is International Women’s Day. It is also known as the United Nations (UN) Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace. This day has been held on the 8th of March annually since the early 1900s. It celebrates and supports equality, achievement and solidarity between women across the globe, whilst also recognising the struggle that women still face. Thousands of events occur not just on this day but throughout March to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women. Organisations, governments, charities, educational institutions, women’s groups, corporations and the media celebrate the day. Many groups around the world choose different themes each year relevant to global and local gender issues.

What happens?

Various women, including political, community, and business leaders, as well as leading educators, inventors, entrepreneurs, and television personalities, are usually invited to speak at various events on the day. Such events may include seminars, conferences, luncheons, dinners or breakfasts. The messages given at these events often focus on various themes such as innovation, the portrayal of women in the media, or the importance of education and career opportunities.

Many students in schools and other educational settings participate in special lessons, debates or presentations about the importance of women in society, their influence, and issues that affect them. Many workplaces make a special mention about International Women’s Day through internal newsletters or notices, or by handing out promotional material focusing on the day. It’s important to celebrate International Women’s Day to see what issues are facing women.

Austerity

Austerity policies imposed by the big banks and capitalist governments on a global level have meant increased misery for women. Women rely on social services because the work they do in the family and the household is unpaid. Providing child care and care for the elderly falls almost completely on the shoulders of women. But under capitalism, this work is considered “natural” and is expected to be performed by women without pay. This creates serious inequality, as many women must do unpaid labour and work a paying job as well – if they’re lucky enough to find a job.

Future

Having more women in key decision-making places in political, economic and social decision-making at all levels in society is the way to move away from the sort of decision-making that has served us so poorly in recent years. Today we want a different approach, one that values each individual and the contribution they can make to build a better world. We can no longer put up with a world where it is acceptable to shoot a girl child for wanting to go to school, or to disregard the crime of rape against a woman who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. We thought the campaign for equality was about low pay, discrimination, humiliation or glass ceilings in the work place, or by hunger and poverty. But it’s more, all too often it is a classic case of oppression and repression. Building a better world is about allowing each person to flourish and fulfil their potential – nothing else will do.

Change

International Women’s Day was established 100 years ago to press for the demands of women to vote, be trained, hold public office and to end discrimination. 100 years later clearly a lot has changed for many women in many countries. However, there is still a very long way to go before all women realise the commitment made in the Universal Declaration Human Rights, adopted in 1948, that, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”.

Almost 900 jobs up for grabs in summer 2014 

These are unprecedented times for our country and our economy. As people respond to personal challenges, we are hearing so many interesting stories of individuals taking opportunities now to pursue completely different careers. People are now in jobs they first thought about 20 years ago, or dreamt about as adolescents or doing something they see as a complete career change. There will be almost 900 jobs up for grabs in summer 2014. These jobs will be available in every city, town and village around the country. And a new organisation is trying to ensure that women in particular get the training, advice and support to apply for those jobs.

The local elections will be called in summer 2014, just two short years away and I spent last Saturday in the Clarion Hotel in Cork where Women for Election ran their Inspire Programme. They want to ensure that women around the country dust off their cvs, polish their skills, get the necessary training and get inspired to think about a different kind of career and consider politics.

The low number of women opting for politics as a career is obvious but it is shocking to realise that there is now an incredibly high level of women in Dáil Éireann. Yes, 25 of the 166 of the TDs elected are women and that is the highest number of women in the sitting in the Dáil Chamber in the history of the state. It is only a 5% increase in the last 35 years – incredibly slow progress.  These figures show that Ireland is failing to use its most vital resource: its people. Women, 52% of the population, make up just 15% of elected representatives.

The talent, skills and experience of so many women is being excluded as our country’s future is decided. There is universal acknowledgement that balanced participation by women and men in political decision-making leads to more representative and effective democracies; and better and more inclusive societies. Better for the country and our economy. Yet women just are not applying for the job. And because so many job vacancies are coming up so soon Women for Election want to make sure that the electorate has a choice of whether to vote for a female candidate.

What I heard at the Inspire Programme is that the time for talking is over and Women for Election are getting down to training candidates for the job of work ahead. According to the best international research, women face specific challenges when thinking of running for election. Issues around cash, confidence, childcare, candidate selection, culture predominate and Women for Election is focused on helping women address these issues. As one of the trainers at the event said, ‘women should be looking at challenges to getting elected as speed bumps rather than barriers.’

Speaking to Women for Election co-founders Niamh Gallagher and Michelle O’Donnell Keating after the event, I was interested to hear what was motivating them to get women to consider politics as a career. They told me that they were meeting women from all over the country with the abilities to run for election who they feel just need a bit of a push to consider politics as a career. They want women to focus on their experience and how they can contribute to politics. The real message from the day was that women have the skills and talents to run. They have skills in organisation and communication, they are passionate about affecting their families and communities and they have a great capacity for hard work.

Trainers on the Inspire Programme provided practical support and advice on building confidence, planning a campaign and communicating a message. The level of debate and discussion was really interesting and there were clear indications of an impressive ability in the room from women of all ages and all backgrounds.

Participants also heard from Minister of State Kathleen Lynch about how reluctant she was to run for the first time and how shocked she was to win by 4 votes. We heard from local TD Áine Collins about how to build a team and develop a plan. It was great to hear the inspirational stories of these women who have gone before – applied successfully for the job of elected representative, and in Minister Lynch’s case lost the job before getting it back again.

Minister Kathleen Lynch told the group that in politics you must want to change someone else’s world – not your own. Women for Election are working to inspire that change.

Women for Election have completed Inspire Programmes in Dublin and Cork and are heading to Galway on the 16th of June and back to Dublin on the 7th of July.  Any women looking for a career change who think that politics might be for them should email inspire@womenforelection.ie or see www.womenforelection.ie for more information.

The hunt for a new job, no matter what age or experience is rarely fun.  Even at the best of times, it can be stressful and time-consuming.  So, what happens if you are a woman and find yourself laid off, or trying to switch jobs? Well every woman can take control and realise their potential. I have certain tips to help you find and get that job.

  1. Regaining Confidence – even the most accomplished women face confidence issues the longer they are away from the workplace.  So it’s important to realise that this is normal. To overcome confidence issues think about the job search as a sales and marketing campaign with you selling yourself. Focus on your key strengths.
  2. Identify your reason – it is important for you to understand why you want to go back to work. The reasons could be financial, intellectual or social. Understanding this will help you take up the job that is right for you. For example, if the reason you want to go back to work is social, i.e. you are getting bored at home but don’t want something too heavy, then you could opt for a low-pressure/part-time job and not worry too much about pay.
  3. Networking – once you figure out what area your passionate about then start networking with people in that area. So if its cooking – start talking with chefs, if its childcare start talking with crèche owners, parents etc. Also check out if there are any women’s network groups in your local area. Through networking you might be able to find yourself a: ‘mentor.’ Finding a woman mentor would be helpful to learn the art of networking.
  4. Upskilling – it’s important to keep upskilling. For example, a lot of employers want people who are computer literate or who have a driving licence. So try and get these skills if you don’t already have them.
  5. Local services – look at local newspapers, listen to local radio, go on the internet, go to your local employment centre. The key is to keep checking and being persistent. A job doesn’t come to you, you have to go to the job.
  6. Social Media and technology – take a course, get a tutor, hire your teenager, or teach yourself the basics of PowerPoint, Excel, and Word. Sign up on Linked In to understand how it works and to look up people at companies in which you are interested.  Sign up for Twitter so you can follow the Twitter feed on companies and people of interest.  Even if you don’t create a single “Tweet”, just following relevant people and companies can be a great source of information prior to interviewing. 
  7. Being your own boss – have you ever thought about being your own boss? Would you ever consider starting up your own business? There is nothing more rewarding than starting up your own business about your passion. We all have a particular interest and passion so ask yourself what is yours. If starting up your own little business interests you than go to your county or city enterprise board and check out if there are any grants or funding available or check with your local TD.
  8. Alternatives – ask yourself the following questions – Are you interested in politics could you contribute to society in that way by becoming a local TD in your hometown and standing for women’s issues? Or maybe you could try and become involved in a voluntary organisation or charity and do some work that way?
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