To mark International Women’s Day today, Sarah Fagan, Managing Director, Adare Human Resource Management tells us what the day means to her and why she believes it’s important.

What does International Women’s Day mean for you?

International Women’s Day is a hugely significant day to acknowledge, celebrate and take stock of the massive contributions made by women each day. It gives us time to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

For me it’s a day of reflection to truly contemplate what more we can do to support women in reaching new heights and celebrating those who have already broken the barriers. We need to consider how we can all be each other’s ally to best support and lift each other up.

Do you think it’s important that we mark a day like this?

While it is important we mark each and every day to celebrate the successes of women, it is essential that on International Women’s Day we take stock of the generational progress made for gender equality across the world and in our day to day activities championing women should be at the core of what we do. We also need to recognise that what we do now to support gender equality, means it won’t be an issue for those coming after us so they can concentrate fully on being the best they can in a world that doesn’t see gender, just talent and what we can give to society.

What more would you like to see happen to help gender equality?

To achieve a more meaningful gender balance, a holistic approach should be taken. Awareness is just step one; practical practices should be put in place to back up the intention for real change. Measurable, practical strategies need to be implemented to shift the scales in favour of a fairer and more transparent gender balance landscape, including setting meaningful targets for change and involving both genders to deliver a better balance.

In addition to the ethical argument for gender balance, there are additional far-reaching benefits to an equal opportunity workplace. We know getting the balance right across organisations drives a more successful and cohesive business environment for everybody. It creates better workplaces and better decision making led by an engaged workforce with opportunities for everyone.

For real change to happen, the workplace must become a more welcoming environment for both men and women. We must remember balance is not exclusively a women’s issue, it involves everyone from the top down, and success in shifting the dial comes when balance is embraced by all.

Gender balance is about changing the dynamic towards a more inclusive working environment without instilling fear that the pendulum will swing too far in the opposite direction. Ultimately, it’s about fairness and equality, something every employer should be striving for in their organisation.

Do you think gender quotas are a good way of addressing gender equality in business?

I think gender quotas are just one way of helping to address a better-balanced workforce but as previously said, there should be a far wider, holistic approach taken.

We do know that there is a significant way to go to achieve better gender balance. The Gender Balance in Business Survey 2021 from the Central Statistics Office recently published figures that show that just 13.4% of CEOs in Ireland are female, up slightly from 2019 when the figure stood at 11.5%. The same report stated that 14% of Chairpersons of Irish companies were female, women made up 21.8% of Boards of Directors and 28.1% were Chief Financial Officers. This does highlight a real issue at the more senior levels in business.

It was good to see that a new Private Members’ Bill was brought forward last year to help address this imbalance. The Irish Corporate Governance (Gender Balance) Bill 2021, will, if enacted, establish a 40% quota for female representation on company boards.

But we shouldn’t have to wait for legislation to be introduced to make progress; every employer has a responsibility to invest in and support more women in the workplace.

What piece of advice would you give young women coming into the workforce today?

Being true to yourself and owning your own worth is essential to progress in gender equality. There is no doubt that progress has been made but having the courage of your own convictions and belief in yourself will assist in your progress and encourage others to be that powerhouse of change and community to one another.