International Women’s Day (IWD) was this week, 8 March. The theme of this year’s day was to focus on the bias.
Basically, it is much easier for a man to be promoted, to succeed in business and to be elected.
One look at the ratio of women to men in the Dáil and the bias against women is evident.
A much higher proportion of men sit around the board tables of our little country and participate in critical discussions that affect women’s lives. It is just fact.
Yes, women can also do it but it is more difficult for us to attain recognition. Sometimes life paths and family commitments do hold women back.
I want women to be on an equal footing with men, I want real parity of pay for women in all professions
All that can be overcome if the right supports are in place for women such as child care, after-school care and the ability to work from home when necessary.
Obviously, some professions such as those in teaching, healthcare, construction and agriculture have to be onsite. I want women to be on an equal footing with men, I want real parity of pay for women in all professions. These are basic aspirations in 2022.
I cringe when I hear of discrimination against women. It can be resolved but both men and women have to name discrimination when they see it in action and work to change the culture.
Why do we need IWD?
While I understand the need for IWD; on another level it makes me uncomfortable.
In my farming life, I have rarely encountered discrimination. It is not a part of my everyday life.
I, and others, stand beside our husbands, sons and colleagues on an equal footing.
Sometimes I can be my own worst enemy and can create my own situation.
So we do create our own destinies
Imagine, there was a time when I introduced myself as Tim O’Leary’s wife rather than claiming my own identity. So we do create our own destinies. Another common answer when asked if we work is to say “no”, immediately demeaning our roles as housewife or indeed farmer’s wife which is a totally different status altogether. So, always start with a positive description of your working life.
I’ve had to fill out a lot of medical forms in the last two years and they always look for my profession. I write farmer, teacher, journalist. It has raised a few eyebrows!
Even as I was doing it, I knew I was demeaning myself
One consultant said, “Which is it? It can’t be all three!” Instead of adding housewife and carer to the list, I began to defend my answer saying: “Well they’re all part time” and so on.
Even as I was doing it, I knew I was demeaning myself. I stopped explaining abruptly. The conversation moved on. I’m still wondering why I didn’t just say: “Yes, I can!”
Women who inspire
Much of the narrative around IWD focuses on women that inspire us. Of course there are seriously successful women and I salute them. But their lives are not relevant to mine. I asked the question of a group of women in the staff room last week and I was gratified to hear most of them say “my mother”.
We heard of the struggles and triumphs of the ordinary, extraordinary mums. I remember my mother on a daily basis and am always inspired by her resilience, loyalty, love, work ethic and her heartfelt connection and kindness to us all.
We are merely carrying on the wonderful tradition of Irish mothers
Maybe that is why we moms try to be supermoms for our children and grandchildren. We are merely carrying on the wonderful tradition of Irish mothers.
Obviously, extraordinary women don’t always have to be mothers either. The significance lies in being the best that you can be in your career, as a volunteer, within family or friendships. The reward comes in the form of success and that may need the support and encouragement of both the men and women in our lives.
So, we probably need IWD to remind us that we can achieve, succeed and hold our own with any group of men.
I could make a long list of the women that inspire me but right now it is the Ukrainian women who have fled the country with their children
The other women cited by my colleagues were those women getting on with caring duties on a daily basis. They have no chance to follow their dreams but instead keep up the labour of love.
I could make a long list of the women that inspire me but right now it is the Ukrainian women who have fled the country with their children leaving their men behind to fight. I’m not so sure I could do it. I hope there will be a resolution to the conflict so that lives will be saved and these women will be reunited with their families.