A Note from the Author
This blog is to be released during the
month of March, in which we mark International Woman’s day, a celebration of
how far we have come in the search for diversity and equality as well as an acknowledgement
of the continuous work ahead of us. With this in mind, I‘m taking this
opportunity to look back at the journey Ireland
has taken over the last 83 years, not so coincidently, this is also the average
life span of an Irish woman.
Now, before anyone feels excluded, there are a few things to note: this is a journey taken by all people. No one person can change a culture by themselves. It is a combination of every human met along the way, who chose to take action, however big or small to effect positive change. Also for those who will ask, and I know there are a few, “Yes, there is an International Men’s Days”, and I welcome you to help celebrate it on Thursday, the 19th of November.
The Rise of Equality in an Irish Lifetime
Irish people have a reputation of being friendly and open. They are known for accepting and welcoming you exactly as you are. Irish women themselves, have their very own reputation for being powerhouses. An Irish mother is a woman you never dare cross, and when she’s in your corner you know you have nothing to fear. Whether they lead revolutions on the ground like Rosie Hackett, or in the sky’s such as Lady Mary Heath, their presence was felt across the world. So with such strong characters, you’d imagine the working landscape in Ireland as one that reflected equality and diversity at every turn. While it is certainly something we are working towards today, as is the way of most things, this has not always been the case.
“A woman may have a career or a family, she may not have both.”
The year is 1937, you are madly in love and ready to start your life with your soon to be husband. The start of a new chapter. Sadly, due to the Marriage Ban it is also a very permanent end to your working life. The Marriage Ban was a law that required women to leave paid employment once they were married. For some, the idea of focusing on raising your family without the added stress of paid employment is a wonderful thing, but for many, having that choice taken from you is not. For people of my grandmother’s generation this is simply how it was. Imagine the loneliness of trying to fill your days when all your friends are still working away. Having hours at a time to fill, every day, in the years before you give birth to your first child, should you be so lucky as to be able to conceive. Imagine becoming completely financially dependent on another human, losing that freedom, that independence. This gives a whole new meaning to the concept that a woman had to choose between having a career and having a family.
The Marriage Ban was lifted in 1957 for primary teachers but remained in place for civil servants until 1973. For those that avoid maths at all costs, that is only 47 years ago…..
“You’re going to university and that’s all there is about it!”
With the initial strong blockers to a woman’s career, is it any surprise that with the lift of the ban, the Irish household placed much importance on the need for a good education? A strong education was seen as a way to open up doors that would otherwise have remained firmly shut. This is something that was strongly supported by the State. In an article published by the Irish Times on November 23rd, 2017, it is noted that 42% of people aged 15 and over have a 3rd level education. When examined by gender, 43.2% of women and 40.7% of men had attended at least a 3rd level education.
So if the gender split between graduates is relatively balanced, why don’t we see this reflected in our teams?
Despite women being noted as some of the very first programmers, only 1/3rd of S.T.E.M graduates are female. So how can we change this?
A Bottom-Up Approach
Growing up I only knew one woman that worked in IT, my wonderful Aunt. Even then I had no idea what her job involved. I never envisioned myself working in this industry because I had no idea what it entailed. Thankfully, I strongly believe this is changing. The Synthetic Generation being raised today are constantly being exposed to technology and it’s inner workings from a young age. They are growing up in a world where if your mind can conceive it, you can make it happen! Alongside this, they are cultivating a culture that has zero-tolerance for discrimination.
A Top-Down Approach
While I’m excited to see the world they create, I also believe we have a lot of work to do to help prepare it for them and ourselves. In Oct 2019 I had the opportunity to attend the Woman in Tech awards hosted by Dublin Tech Summit. They held a panel discussion during which Brenda Romero noted that for her, ensuring diversity and inclusion was not about only hiring woman, or other minorities; it’s about ensuring you have a diverse pool at the earliest stage possible. When looking at how we market jobs to attract high performers Brenda takes action where she can to ensure she has a diverse pool of qualified people to interview. I feel it is also worth bearing in mind that it’s the people that have had different experiences to you that will inspire you to create your most innovative ideas and solutions.
If we only surround ourselves with people of our age, nationality, and interests we will never realise the inherent problems faced by the rest of the population.
Diversity and inclusion isn’t about quotas, or just being “seen” to be culturally conscious. It’s about giving everyone a fair chance, and equal access to have their voice/ideas heard. In doing so, you may be taken by surprise at how a different perspective can help solve problems that once seemed insurmountable.
After all, consultancy is built on the idea of sharing knowledge, experiences and resources across industry’s that may otherwise never communicate with each other.
It comes as no surprise that we have not yet reached a utopian society bursting with diversity and inclusion. However, it can be said that progress has been made over the last few decades. Every time we create a safe environment for people to discuss these issues, we also create an environment that will nurture and encourage solutions. With Capgemini joining the UNs theme of #EachforEqual, I ask you to respond to the call to arms to help us continue to build a more diverse and inclusive culture.