By Pádraig Hoare
Women outperforming men in universities are seeing “the wheels fall off in work” because of the “glacial pace in getting to equality”.
That was the message of Ulster Bank’s head of learning and development at an event aimed at encouraging women in business in Cork.
Joyce Walsh told the Irish Times Be One Inspire One business breakfast, run in association with Ulster Bank, that all women had a role in getting behind equality in the workforce through inspiring others.
“There is inequality across the world in all organisations. The pace with regard to getting to equality is glacial, and that is why we are here. There are stats that show when there is equality in organisations, a woman is four times more likely to succeed and a man is twice as likely.
“There was a really powerful example at a Women’s Day event earlier this year. An 18-year-old girl who will sit her Leaving Cert next year will outperform her male counterparts, according to evidence. She will outperform him in college. Then she will go to work and that is where the wheels fall off.
“In five years, she will earn 6% less than her male counterpart, she is less likely to make it to managerial level. That 18-year-old will be 67 before the gender gap closes, if we do nothing,” Ms Walsh said.
The event heard from women in a range of industries, including Claire Nash of Nash19 restaurant, who told the audience how she never let adversity beat her, but instead let it inspire her. A highly competitive nature, a trust for her gut instinct and meeting challenges head-on were some of the factors behind her success in business, Ms Nash said.
Marketing director for the commercial, business and private franchise of Ulster Bank’s parent RBS, Co Clare native Maeve McMahon said women were better bets for business plans to succeed because they were seen as less of a risk than men.
Her high-profile role in RBS was not easy, and did not provide an ideal work-life balance, she said.
“But I have a choice, and I do it,” Ms McMahon said.
Cork A&E nurse and beauty, skincare and fashion blogger, Louise O’Connell said she had turned a hobby into a commercial business in recent years. She urged women to be motivated, saying that self-acceptance was key to unlocking the confidence to do so.
“All of us have something to offer. I began my life all over again and started from scratch,” Ms O’Connell said.
Life coach and businesswoman Jo Flood told of how through trial and error, she had managed to better balance work and home life through her experience as a mother of a child with autism.