Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - Presidential Election -

What ac­tion have you taken to ad­vance women’s equal­ity that you are most proud of ? “Proud” is not a word I would use, but as an en­tre­pre­neur with a pub­lic pro­file, the most sig­nif­i­cant ac­tion I have taken to ad­vance women’s equal­ity is be­ing a reg­u­lar, out­spo­ken ad­vo­cate for quo­tas for women on boards, in se­nior man­age­ment and in pol­i­tics. I be­lieve my ad­vo­cacy has ac­tu­ally per­suaded quite a few who had reser­va­tions about quo­tas to con­sider set­ting them in their or­gan­i­sa­tions. I am pas­sion­ate about quo­tas, be­liev­ing if we re­ally want to achieve true gen­der equal­ity in our com­mu­ni­ties and in the world of work we have to set tar­gets and con­tin­u­ously mon­i­tor and mea­sure if we are achiev­ing them.

We are in a golden age cur­rently of women as CEOs lead­ing many of the coun­try’s largest com­pa­nies and I have worked closely as a men­tor and busi­ness ad­viser with many of them. The chal­lenge now is to change their cor­po­ra­tions and achieve true di­ver­sity, in­clu­sion and par­ity of pay and con­di­tions for all.

Fi­nally, let it be noted that the of­fice and role of the pres­i­dent was only re­de­fined and ex­panded when we had two women pres­i­dents, Mary Robin­son and Mary McAleese.

How would you ad­vance women’s rights in the role of pres­i­dent? If elected pres­i­dent I would set about chang­ing the role of the pres­i­dent’s life part­ner. In my case, my part­ner, Or­laith Car­mody, has had a long in­volve­ment work­ing with Women for Election. She is a pro­fes­sional com­mu­ni­ca­tor and au­thor of the best-seller book Per­form as a Leader. Not only is Or­laith my best friend, wife of 25 years, and mother of our four adult chil­dren, she is also my life-long busi­ness part­ner. We work as a team and if elected pres­i­dent we in­tend to re­de­fine the role of the pres­i­dent’s part­ner. In 2022 on the cen­te­nary of the found­ing of our State, Or­laith and I would jointly host the Ire­land Daugh­ters’ As­sem­bly where we will de­bate what we ac­tu­ally mean and how do we achieve full equal­ity for women at the com­mence­ment of the sec­ond cen­tury of our in­de­pen­dence. Just a point here, sadly our po­lit­i­cal sys­tem and the cor­po­rate world are still led by a male ma­jor­ity so when I am try­ing to con­vince peo­ple, es­pe­cially men, to em­brace true di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion, I talk about what would we want for our daugh­ters and I find I get a much more pos­i­tive re­sponse and changes do oc­cur. That’s why I am propos­ing an as­sem­bly to dis­cuss daugh­ters as op­posed to women.

Do you con­sider your­self a fem­i­nist? Yes, I am a com­mit­ted fem­i­nist in that I be­lieve in full gen­der equal­ity in ev­ery as­pect of life. I be­lieve one comes to true fem­i­nism only af­ter hav­ing suf­fered dis­crim­i­na­tion on the grounds of be­ing a woman. As a man I have never felt dis­crim­i­nated against or passed over for a pro­mo­tion be­cause of my gen­der, and so can only em­pathise with women who are dis­crim­i­nated against and do ev­ery­thing to con­demn and fix it. And I know women are dis­crim­i­nated against be­cause I have worked with men who have blind spots to women’s po­ten­tial or, sadly feel more com­fort­able in ma­jor­ity male teams. Of course I chal­lenged those men but many suf­fer un­con­scious bias. I have al­ways been dif­fer­ent in that re­gard and have al­ways worked closely and suc­cess­fully with women. By the way my election boss is a woman, Kate Ach­e­son.

What woman, past or present, in­spires you and why? It is a group of women that I ad­mire. My mother and my aun­ties. I grew up in an ex­tended fam­ily where every­one was in­volved in busi­ness. My mother Anne and aunty Teresa were restau­ra­teurs, my aunty Mae owned a bak­ery and con­fec­tionery shop, my aunty Peg a petrol sta­tion, aunty Pearl a gift shop and newsagents, my aunty Mau­reen owned and ran laun­dro­mats in Flush­ing, New York. To­day they might be called en­trepreneurs but back then they were happy to be just “shop­keep­ers”. They were all in­de­pen­dent of their hus­bands and were most def­i­nitely fem­i­nists and grow­ing up with them formed in me an ad­mi­ra­tion and re­spect for strong women.

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