International Women’s Day is the ideal opportunity to reflect on what a gender-balanced world means in our own lives and in our workplace. Gender-balance isn’t a women’s issue, it’s a business issue, and for me it starts with aspiration.
The way my parents raised me, I never thought I was different because I was a girl, or that I had certain paths laid out for me. It was ingrained from a young age, to have the desire, the aspiration and the belief to be who I wanted to be. And I wouldn’t view anyone differently, regardless of gender, everyone’s a human being.
In business, we have to make space for people for the ebbs and flows in their lives, and treat everyone with fairness and understanding, and not show favourite-ism. When families have children we make it possible to job-share for example, because people may want to change the way they work when their kids are young.
Of course, certain areas of business are different from others. In Commercial, there are a lot of high tech and engineering roles, and not many females apply for those jobs. Starting at home, then in school, and at third-level, it’s important to make those subjects cool for women, to nurture the understanding that nothing’s out of bounds.
My brother is the Chairman of Commercial, and I’m the Managing Director. We have different mindsets, but that’s never an issue because we believe in harnessing both. We’re both humans with different qualities. Sometimes we agree 100 per cent, and sometimes we have different perspectives, as brother and sister, and as chairman and managing director. We respect each other, we talk it through and then we move forward when we get on the same page. And I really try to set an example that I hope that permeates throughout the business.
There is the view that the ‘typical’ female is more nurturing etc, and that the ‘typical’ male is less emotional, and more pragmatic. But when you’re surrounded by great people, those idiosyncrasies fall away. That’s what I hope we would be pushing for our children: teaching them that each of us has a male and a female side, and we can harness both to be who we want to be. And be the change we want to see.
It is our differences that give colour to an organisation. We encourage people to work towards the same goals, without being prescriptive. Sometimes there’s freedom within a recognised structure, as it empowers individuals to embrace who they are and to be the best versions of themselves.