By Anne McGarth
I think I was very lucky that I went to a school where the ethos was that we could become or achieve whatever we wanted so long as we had aptitude and worked hard. We were unaware that we might come across any other obstacles such as sexism, ageism, racism, or any other ‘ism’, we just had an innate belief that everyone was equal and that success would stem from the effort you put in.
In my family too my parents never put down boundaries. They never said: ‘that is for boys’ or ‘this is for girls’.
I also had a role model of a grandmother who was a family doctor. She graduated from Trinity College Dublin in the 1920s, so not the first, but still something of a trailblazer in a male dominated profession nearly 100 years ago.
And so I grew up expecting that my talents alone would lead me to success in whatever field I chose, that I would control my life and make my own choices. Of course while that is how it should be, with life experience I know that is unfortunately still more aspiration than reality.
I still believe that you should succeed on merit, but during my career I know I have lost out on jobs because I was female. I also worked in one newsroom where all my colleagues were men and I was on the lowest salary even though I was better qualified (if less experienced) than the men. Needless to say I fought to have salary increased, banked the experience and moved on!
Although the struggle for female empowerment continues and some countries are more advanced than others, there is progress.
There are more and more women breaking through the glass ceiling and taking up positions of leadership. Politics is a good example of where that change is happening. In the UK, the Prime Minister is a woman and the First Ministers of both Scotland and Northern Ireland are also women. There are also a record number of women serving in the US Congress making up nearly a quarter of its voting membership for the first time ever.
In her concession speech in 2016 Hillary Clinton said: “‘To all the little girls who are watching, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your dreams.’
We might not be there yet, but if all the little girls and boys today believe those words then the future will not only be bright, it will be feminist.