Bold For Change 2017
The Fumbally Exchange Co-workers Can Do!
As March 2017 draws to a close, its significance is established. We have seen so much happen this month in Ireland and all over the world, at both ends of the spectrum. And while March 8th is the main focal day acknowledged as International Women’s Day, the U.S. celebrates Women’s History Month each March, and has done so since their congressional decision in 1987. Despite the recent distressing political events in America, the tradition still holds across the land and women’s achievements and challenges are highlighted. Schools and communities celebrate with theatre, exhibitions, talks, sponsored essay contests and more.
In Dublin on March 8th the atmosphere on the streets was electric as people engaged in or were spectators to the many activities of the day. I started, as the sun rose, with a reflective stroll in Phoenix Park. With a packed day ahead, it felt valuable to have a quiet moment in nature. In the words of my good friend Jo the Chippy, sometimes you’ve got to “pull yourself towards yourself”. After a couple of weeks of stormy weather we were blessed on that day with bright blue skies and so I decided to continue on foot to the Construction Industry Federation.
Increasing Female Participation in Construction
Together with a panel of 5 other women I was to speak at the CIF Breakfast Briefing.
Jean Winters is Director of Industrial Relations at the CIF; Louise Phelan-Pay Pal Vice President; Claire Solon-President of Society Chartered Surveyors; Deirdre Hennessy-Senior Associate with ByrneWallace; Phil Kane-Country Manager for Eaton Group; and myself, Founder of Women in Trades Network Ireland.
In an endeavour to influence positive change, the event was themed ‘Increasing Female Participation in Construction’, and brought together women and also men from various corners of the industry. It didn’t go unnoticed that the framed images on the wall, of presidents gone by, were all male bar one – former president Mirette Corboy.
Each of us spoke of our own journey in construction. We talked about the obstacles and successes we had known. We reinforced the message that we are all responsible for our own destinies, but voiced the importance of creating a supportive network and being active in creating an overall shift in the workforce balance as it exists today.
During the discussion phase afterward, one woman, by her own admission, said that upon meeting Jean Winters in the car park on the way in, had assumed she had a clerical role at the CIF. She said she felt terrible about incorrectly profiling the Director of IR this way, but it was a valuable insight. Her honesty highlighted that entrenched gender expectations can affect us all and that sometimes the change needs to occur within ourselves as well as around us in society.
A WOMAN’S WORK
‘A Woman’s Work’, the book by Beta Bajgart, was launched on March 8th and concluded Women’s Day elegantly.
Beta was motivated to create this collection of photographs in response to the pigeonholing of women’s beauty standards. She realised that to her, beauty could be about deciding to step outside the box and expressing inner strengths and imagination.
So her project began with the search for women who held a diverse and unusual range of careers and skillsets. Maybe you remember me talking about this project in the January Blog. At that time Beta and I went to meet Kate the Aircraft Engineer at Shannon Airport. Both Kate and myself, as well as Polly the Welder, feature in the book. Finally after more than a year of hard work the book was ready. It was launched ceremoniously at Dublin Castle by Minister for Justice & Equality, Frances Fitzgerald, and the Czech Ambassador Hana Motlova.
Orla Hardiman, Professor of Neurology at Trinity College, is in the book as well (page 42). She spoke on stage and articulated not only the enormous benefit of projects such as this, but the importance of something that had been strong in my mind for some time.
“Feminism is about equality. As has been illustrated by Beta Bajgartova in the production of her beautiful book, ‘A Woman’s Work’, gender stereotyping must never be a determinant of what we can or cannot do as women. We must teach our daughters that they can excel in any profession once they are willing to work hard. But we must remember that this also applies to our sons. Heavily gender biased professions are bad for everybody in society. There should be no barriers to a young man who wishes to work in a profession that is gender stereotyped toward women.
As we strive for equality, and as our power base expands, we must also remember what it is like to have been oppressed. We must guard against all forms of discrimination. Our daughters must be empowered so they can reach their full potential. But we must make sure we lead by example for our sons. That is true equality”
MUM’S THE WORD
Since International Women’s Day we have seen the Ironworkers of America put into policy a well paid maternity leave. In fact they are the first of the building trades in the U.S. to do so. Ironically, the next day, the Irish Times published a report on topic . They declared that we are bottom of all the European States in our support of labour market benefits. This includes things like paid sick leave and maternity benefits. The mirror is harsh but at least the truth is being acknowledged. This report strangely coincided with Mother’s Day. It makes me wonder. What things have changed and what felt similar for our Mum’s when they were our age? It seems like there’s a lot to do still.
‘Strike for Repeal’ converged on O Connell bridge on March 8th. Amidst a sea of thousands campaigning for equality & bodily autonomy, a passionate placard bearer held this high. A short but clear message. This is what it read;
You can buy your very own copy of the book ‘A Woman’s Work’ online here . The proceeds go to the National Women’s Council of Ireland. You can read more about the new Ironworkers Maternity Policy here. Read about the March 8th ‘Strike for Repeal’ here.
CONGRATULATIONS to Helen Kate in Cork who won our Women’s Day Toolbox Prize!