Aine Murray It’s A Balancing Act

Aine Murray President France Ireland Chamber of Commerce

Aine Murray On Balance

Much to learn from France about Gender Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

Ireland’s business community has much to learn from France when it comes to diversity and inclusion according to Aine Murray President of the France Ireland Chamber of Commerce.

France is way ahead when it comes to gender diversity in politics, society and in business. The French realised that there were barriers preventing women progressing into leadership a long time ago and they decided to do something about it.

“The French recognised this a number of decades ago, and put the KPIs in place, (key performance indicators). Not only did they just put kpi’s in place saying we need equal numbers of men and women, they looked at the ‘blockers’ to the talent pool. So you obviously want the most appropriate candidates to fill a position, but in order to do that, you need to look at who’s in your talent pool. If all of your talent pool are from one particular background or one particular gender, then you need to work out what are the blockers to the other members of the community?” They investigated what were the genders and backgrounds not progressing through the leadership pipeline and asked why.  “What are those blockers and how can we work to solve those.” They put the programmes in place, in the leadership programs,  the working conditions,  the childcare and various other leaves were offered as well. All of these changes make a difference she believes.

Gender Roles and Men Taking Parental Leave

Aine sees that awareness of gender diversity, but also background diversity coming into companies thinking. “There’s that desire to to widen the talent pool and to check. This has happened in her own company VEOLIA .

“I think COVID has helped in this respect too. You’ll see a much bigger take up now of men taking parental leave than you would have had before COVID. Previously it was nearly always the woman in the relationship who took the parental leave, who took the extra leave, to facilitate childcare.” Aine thinks it is now much more acceptable for men to take  parental leave and that this is a leveller too.

It is about balance

One of the best things we can learn from France is about balance. Aine says it is very much in the French culture to look for balance in employment structures, in politics and in life in general.  “There is a  sense of balance, balance in terms of the foods you eat, the lifestyle you have, and everything but that balance then as well as when you’re at work, you’re at work, but when you’re off work, you’re off work.” The work regime in Ireland and elsewhere is quite different. “I think you would see very different statistics in how many people say in Ireland, are grabbing a sandwich at their computer screen, turning off their camera while in a meeting for their lunch, versus maybe the people in France who make sure that they walk away from their desks, they go, they sit down, they have a meal, they have a conversation, they come back refreshed.”  This lifestyle she thinks must lead to better health and less stress for people as they age.

“you don’t always take the time to step back and see your achievements, see the value you bring, see what others see in you.”

Little tap on the should

Women still need reminding of their potential and their achievements especially when it comes to promotional opportunities. The example of how differently men and women look at job advertisements and judge themselves is well known. Aine says that women should be prepared to have a go and that they should encourage other women to apply for positions they might not think they are qualified for.  Tap them on the shoulder she suggests, ask “why haven’t you applied?  I’ve had people come to me and say, ‘Why haven’t you applied for that particular role?’   Even if you don’t get it, you are still putting yourself forward, you’re still putting yourself on the radar, and you will still have something to learn about yourself. It’s really important to see how other people see you too, because I think as women, potentially as Irish people, and depending on the profession that you’re in, you don’t always take the time to step back and see your achievements, see the value you bring, see what others see in you.”


France Ireland in Balance with Earth and the Environment

There is much Ireland can learn from the French companies about balance with earth nature and natural resources she believes. Aine says balance with the earth and the environment is important to her and increasingly, for both French and Irish companies the environment has become a key performance indicator when making any business decision or when investments and projects are being considered.

“I think there has been a recognition that the environment is a key stakeholder of a company, from French companies in Ireland. When I look around the members within the chamber, it’s not just my own company, Veolia, who rates performance not just in terms of profit, but in terms of how we perform within our community, how we measure our impact in the environment, and how all of those investments decisions within a company are made, rating our performance against all of those stakeholders. It comes right down from group objectives, into business units and country objectives, right down into my own personal objectives and our team objectives.”


Future for France Ireland Business Development

In her role as President of FICC she wants to see the links between Ireland and France continue to grow. Since Brexit, France is now Ireland’s nearest neighbour in the European Union. “We’ve seen those direct transport links have more than tripled over the last 10 years, which is massive. The trade between Ireland and France had reached 30 billion euros per year.  I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t hear about it hitting 40 billion per year very soon.” There are at least 300 subsidiaries of French own companies here in Ireland. These are subsidiaries of French companies providing at least 30,000 direct jobs here in Ireland.”

Aine Murray is Head of Marketing, Communications and Corporate Responsibility with Veolia a French company involved in ecological transformation.

Aine is also President of the France Ireland Chamber of Commerce








Angela Mezzetti
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