Frances Fitzgerald Valuing Women’s Voices

The Critical Mass and Voice of Women Is A Necessity

Frances Fitzgerald MEP is tired of waiting for social change, that will benefit women and children and families. The crisis she says in this Women In Leadership podcast, gives us a new opportunity to rebuild the economy in a more equal and greener way. “People have always said you have to wait, women have to wait, children have to wait, it’s too difficult to change it all now. Well my goodness with you see this crisis and you see how suddenly we have all started working from home.”

Frances Fitzgerald also believes politics, society and business needs women’s critical mass and to hear women’s critical voice. She believes it’s a power issue and that it reflects an imbalance in society, that we need men and women working together and that this brings about better decision making. “If you are in a room that is 50 50 you get different dynamics.”

The recovery from COVID19 has to take into account green, digital and social change because that is the future she believes. “The European economy is losing billions of euro when women are not getting opportunities in the economy” she tells the podcast. Referring to research by Christine Lagarde ECB President -conducted when she headed up the IMF, “for example if you put one woman on a board without increasing the number on that board, you get an increase of 8% in productivity in the company. Just think what is being lost to the economy. The point as well about the crisis, what we are seeing now post COVID19 is how much of women’s work is in the caring professions and is often undervalued.

Valuing women and the caring professions post COVID19

Frances Fitzgerald says the research shows that over 80% of childcare work across Europe is in childcare, and in elder care. “82% of cashiers in supermarkets are women, all of these jobs are high risk when it comes to the pandemic. All of a sudden the focus is on the nursing, the cleaning, the caring and we are going to have to look at how we value these jobs largely done by women and the value we put on them is so much less and yet in a crisis we see how absolutely essential and invaluable they are. “I hope we don’t go back to old ways of silence and not recognising the work.”

“We need to be very careful that we don’t think that working from home is an excuse for not having childcare.

Working from home

Frances and her team have all been learning and adapting to working from home like everyone else. For young families though it is not always the easiest place to be, she believes. “We need to be very careful that we don’t think that working from home is an excuse for not having childcare. If you are working from home and you have young children, you still need childcare supports, make no mistake about it”. Frances Fitzgerald says the message coming across from young couples is about the pressure of work and they are asking how do we get a balance . “It is what the feminist movement has always spoken about – work-life balance, valuing home work and carework and trying to get more of a balance into our modern capitalist system, that is what it boils down to.”

Sharing the domestic stuff

On sharing the domestic duties Frances advises giving men space and time. “I think women have to let men practice” and says that more men are willing to do it. “Genuinely because women do it more often they think ‘well I am better and quicker at this than anybody else so I will do it’. Women have to hold back a bit. I think it comes back to undervaluing the inner world and the over valuing of the outside world”.

Digital and green recovery

Its fascinating how quickly people of every age have adapted to the digital world Frances says. Government has to make it easier for all generations. It is the future and people will be left behind if they are not helped. Business will have to go online it is about survival. “With BREXIT looming we have to get sharp online and we have some big companies in Ireland. We have a good education system, we just have to make sure we are as digitally smart as anywhere else in the world. We should be leaders and we can be.”.

There is very differential impact in this crisis. It shows that we have to work towards an equal society. If there is disadvantage in one part of society or one part of a city it affects everybody and it’s in all of our interests to create a more equal society.

“It’s in all of our interests to create a more equal society.”

Pearls of Wisdom

Enjoy what you are doing. Do what you want to do.

Be clear about your values. These are the things that have sustained me in difficult times.

Find a place where you can think well. It can be difficult but if you can find some place, someone you can talk to. Answer the question, what do I want to do now. And if you are unhappy, explore it. Look at the conflicts, see if you can change them.

Find support to speak out, it is not always easy because you can be a lone voice. Get allies and mentoring talk to men who have been through it talk to women who have been in the job. Don’t be afraid to ask.

We are all so serious you have got to find enjoyment and fun in life find those balances because it’s not all work.

Irish MEP Frances Fitzgerald Podcast guest on Women In Leadership Podcast
Angela Mezzetti
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