The 2021 International Women’s Day theme is #ChoosetoChallenge, which has been described as: “A challenged world is an alert world. Individually, we're all responsible for our own thoughts and actions - all day, every day. We can choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can choose to seek out and celebrate women's achievements.”
With this in mind, and with the hope of inspiring women to keep pushing for success no matter how hard the past year has been, I asked Zoe O’Neill, Fiserv, Jeanne McDonagh, Open Doors, Ruairí Conroy, Diligent and our CEO Anne Heraty ‘what woman’s achievements have inspired you over the past year and why?’
Unsurprisingly Kamala Harris and Jacinda Arden came up again and again, joined by some more personal inspirations. Alongside these powerful women, I am in awe and inspired daily by all the women I know who are juggling so many hats with such strength and resilience, and particularly those on the frontline who are truly heroic day in day out.
It has also been inspiring to see our CEO Anne continue to trail blaze, both in how she has led us through Covid-19 and in selling her business during the pandemic – a feat no one would have imagined!
Thank you to all these women and to Zoe, Jeanne, Ruairi and Anne for sharing their thoughts and inspirations with us.
What woman’s achievements have inspired you over the past year and why?
Anne Heraty, Cpl CEO
When I am asked about the women I admire a long list of names come to mind, those closest to me inspire me the most including my Mum and my colleagues in Cpl. On the world stage, two women I admire are Michelle Obama and Dr Edith Edger.
Michelle Obama leveraged her position as the first lady to champion the rights of women and children. She is a strong advocate for education and the opportunities it opens up for people, particularly for those in disadvantaged communities. She also took a strong stand on children’s health launching “Let's Move” an initiative dedicated to solving the problem of childhood obesity.
Dr Edith Edger is a native of Hungary, an author and a holocaust survivor. When she was a teenager she and her family were sent to Auschwitz and her parents died in the gas chambers. Edith and her sisters just about survived, and their lives were changed forever.
Life is rarely a straight and easy path. Edith shows us how strong the human spirit is and the strength it gives us to get back up and try again to reach our potential. She said she discovered her inner resources in Auschwitz and realised the one thing they couldn’t murder was her spirit.
Zoe O’Neill, TA Specialist, Fiserv
There are too many women to be admired across the world over the past number of years. We have more women in power than ever before, breaking down boundaries and future-proofing for generations to come.
I quote that resonated with me is from Kamala Harris who was named as the first-ever female vice president in US history. 'Kamala, you may be the first to do many things, but make sure you're not the last.'
Jacinda Arden has also shown true leadership as Prime Minister of New Zealand. “One of the criticisms I’ve faced over the years is that I’m not aggressive enough or assertive enough, or maybe somehow, because I’m empathetic, I’m weak. I totally rebel against that. I refuse to believe that you cannot be both compassionate and strong.”
Jane Fraser has been named the first female CEO of CITI Bank in the firm’s history. “If people have a whole life, it makes them far better leaders and far better professionals. You have to have the courage to say this is my path.”
While Whitney Wolf Herd became the world's youngest female self-made billionaire after taking Bumble public. “Have a dream, chase it down, jump over every single hurdle, and run through fire and ice to get there.”
There are billions of women across the world who are showing leadership and strength in their everyday lives. As women, we need to support each other and celebrate our achievements as we strive for gender balance. It is time to shatter the glass ceiling.
Jeanne McDonagh, Open Doors CEO
My source of inspiration this year has been a friend of mine, Madeeha. She is a refugee who has made Ireland her home and has contributed so much to me personally, as well as inspiring those around her.
We met through a mentor relationship, but it soon evolved into a close friendship. She came through Direct Provision, received leave to remain and trained hard to get employed as a barista.
Madeeha loves her work, making people smile, has been promoted and is adored by her employers. She saved up and moved into a home with her husband and has been battling reoccurring cancer for the last few years with courage and laughter.
It was particularly bad during Covid. We hope that this year will see the end of her fight and she will emerge healthy and strong.
She is a wonderful, glass half full person, who loves her life in Ireland and has dealt with the awful hand destiny has played to her on numerous fronts, with dignity and bravery. I can only aspire to have her courage, warmth and resilience.
Ruairí Conroy, Site Lead, Diligent Corporation
I have been inspired by several women’s achievements over the past year.
In January 2021, Lisa Fallon became the first head coach of an Irish Premier Division soccer club, Galway United. I met Lisa about 15 years ago where we both worked together in 98FM.
I was an advertising agency sales manager and Lisa was a radio sports presenter. I always admired Lisa’s hunger and knowledge of soccer.
She worked harder and wanted it more than a lot of her male counterparts. Lisa has since gone on to have a major impact in the sporting world, with successful seasons with Chelsea women and Jim Gavin’s Dublin football setup, and more recently working as the head coach with the London City Lionesses before taking up the Galway United head coach job at the beginning of this year.
What an amazing achievement for Kamala Harris to become the first female vice president in America. Vice president Kamala Harris launched her bid for the U.S. presidential campaign on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, where she referenced the civil rights leader as an inspiration.
Although her own campaign was unsuccessful, she stood out from the crowd as an extremely influential and charismatic leader and in my view, made the difference in President Joe Biden’s campaign.
Finally, Jacinda Arden set the standard for how a leader should respond to and manage the COVID-19 pandemic. As Prime Minister of New Zealand, Arden put forth a swift and strict lockdown, with rules that were effectively communicated, and a well-executed testing process. As a result, New Zealand citizens saw less of an impact of this pervasive virus in comparison to many other countries around the world.
Thanks again to all our contributors for sharing their stories and inspirations. Here is to achieving an equal future for all, calling out inequalities as we see them and celebrating women's achievements day in, day out.