I had a long-standing commitment to speak at International Women’s Day in Dublin thanks to an invitation from Eithne Harley in Accenture Ireland. They run a very successful annual event that draws quite a crowd and this year was no exception. There were about 800 women in the audience (and some men too) to celebrate the day and I was part of the Lets Get Digital Panel.
Co-incidentally, during the week I’d also met Caroline Criado-Perez with @teacamplondon and @nettienoodles to learn more about her project @thewomensroomuk which is creating a database of women experts/speakers. You know this is necessary if Women’s Hour recently had two men on the programme to talk about women in tech (read Emma Mulqueeny @hubmum writing about that here)
So all in all #IWDrds was an opportunity to revisit some of my own views from my university days when I was an ardent feminist with regulation haircut and a path worn to the "wimmins" room in the Quay Co-Op in Cork (seriously we did spell it like that).
Back then it was all the “personal is the political, property is theft, marriage is prostitution” narrative. And it was fun, as it always is, being a student challenging the dominant ideology of the day, trying things on for size like a new coat. It was intellectually stretching and difficult trying to understand where you stood on a spectrum of political and ideological beliefs (with the added bonus of driving your parents completely insane).
Although I loved much of the debate and discussion and of course the women I met, I became disillusioned with the emphasis on groupthink. I got a little bored with the endless debates about what it meant to be a “real” feminist. It seemed that you couldn’t be a real feminist if you weren’t also a separatist.
I didn’t think that boded too well for me (I didn’t think boys were that bad or at least not all of them) so as I moved from university into the workforce I softened my stance a little and just got on with the business of being the best I could be regardless of my gender.
Fast forward to 2013 and I am in the RDS Dublin waiting to go into the main hall to speak when I spot a very beautiful women in a very nice dress, wearing a sash that says “Dublin Rose”. So internally I’m like “what? oh-pl-eas-e….it’s 2013 what’s the story here”?
Let’s just say I am suitably chastened and properly mortified with myself. If the drive to conformity was the thing that alienated me from organized feminism in the 1980’s then I’d just made the same judgment about Arlene O'Neill.
Because that would be Dr Arlene O’Neill, Dublin Rose and Nanoscientist (here she is talking about her research) who made it clear in her comments from the platform that she has no issue with glamour or geekery – she just doesn’t see the need to choose between the two. She might have been chased out of the “wimmins” room back in the 80’s so I’m glad to say that our understanding of what it is to have choice and diversity as women is a little more mature nowadays.
Almost as a bookend the delegates also heard from former TD and author Mary O' Rourke who was clearly relaxed and in great storytelling form. When asked did she think women could have it all she just laughed and said “no” and spent some time talking about the fondness she had for other women TD’s regardless of their political party during her time in Dail Eireann – and the support that they gave each other in a very male environment.
I also enjoyed the presentation from Ann O'Dea CEO and editor at large for Silicon Republic who took the opportunity to launch Women Invent Tomorrow an initiative to promote the work of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths). I’d never met Ann in real life so that was a lovely bonus.
So young nanoscientist, elder stateswoman, digitally savvy women all on a platform together in Dublin made a strong statement about how things are changing for #mnanaheireann. Full list of the let’s get digital participants here
I’m glad I spent International Women’s Day 2013 with the women in my home country. Many of them there are pushing boundaries (both personal and professional) using social. Some have just started and some are veterans, so in the spirit of sisterhood give them a follow:
@EithneHarley, @littlebirdyy, @marie_prior,
@PaulaNeary1, @BridBBA @maryrose, @lynchce,
@RitaTobin, @claremiudail, @MelissaJCurry,
@twitsense, @VGodolphin, @ginagalligan,
@KforKritka, @cathyfly, @transponstergrl,
@fabiola_stein, @LucyBroph @ruthakennedy,
And finally thanks to @KrishnaDe for the pictures and the best quote of the day;
PS Happy Mothers Day