FOR some reason I’m often asked the question “Do we have enough female role models in Ireland?”
Often the person asking expects me to say something along the lines of “We need more women everywhere, there aren’t enough women in this and that area...” But this is not my opinion.
While I’m all for putting the right infrastructure in place for women to have better funded pensions, increased exposure in the boardroom and more knowledge regarding the stock market, I can’t see how we’re lacking role models in any way.
How you might ask?
It is true that women are under-represented.
According to the European Commission — ‘Irish women make up just 8.7 per cent of board members of the largest publicly listed companies in Ireland, significantly below the EU average of 15.8 per cent.’
Still, I don’t think we have a lack of female role models. Instead, what we have to do is make the effort to notice them, let them be known as role models and encourage them to be proud of it.
As I’m proactively growing my business, I’m meeting new people and networking with remarkable individuals who are a thousand steps ahead of me. Believe me, female role models are everywhere and there are more and more all the time.
These women are very busy achieving tremendous things and they don’t have the time to toot their own horn, as they tell me they see it. And, having met a few of them, I also know that they’re hard workers with a modest, no-nonsense mentality.
While they’re very happy to share their experience and give rousing speeches, they wouldn’t necessarily be comfortable flaunting themselves as role models.
If you want to reach for the stars and do great things, you need to be able to look up to somebody who has done something similar, or who exhibits the qualities you are striving for, if only to prove to yourself that it can be done.
They did it and they’re “just” normal human beings. They have 24 hours in their day like us.
So, who will you choose? In politics, we can lament the fact that only 16 per cent of TDs are women. But we can also look up to Mary McAleese and Mary Robinson, to Geraldine Byrne Nason and to Catherine Day.
In business, the list goes on and on and on of Irish women who have made their mark at home and abroad: Rosaleen Blair, Mary McKenna, Moya Doherty, Anne O’Leary, Deirdre O’Connor, Ann Heraty, Norah Casey, Deirdre Somers... In fact, out of the ‘Big Six’ law firms in Ireland, five of the managing partners are women.
These are just a few. I haven’t even looked at the media, the arts, sport, charity, innovation and several other professions.
Now perhaps you would put other names on this list, but that’s the whole point. I choose to see these women as remarkable people who excel at what they do and exhibit certain virtues that I might want to cultivate.
There is an abundance of people who can give you the inspiration to persevere and make determined action towards the realisation of your dreams.
And I’m sure we all have a woman or more likely several women in our immediate circle who are absolutely remarkable.
Thousands of women are highly productive career people, wonderfully nurturing mothers and partners, rock-solid friends, amazing members of their community... Aren’t these worthy role models?
Don’t wait for role models to fall into your lap through the media. Invite business women to speak at your networking group. Invite high-achieving women to speak at your school.
Reach out to remarkable women who are featured in your local paper. Tell the people that you admire of your sentiment. I wager you will be spoiled for choice.
Then learn from them and do them proud.
Susan Hayes Culleton (@SusanHayes) is Managing Director of international financial training company Hayes Culleton.
She blogs on www.thepositiveeconomist.com with a focus on what you can do to improve your personal economy. Her latest book is The Savvy Guide to Making More Money.