By Una Murphy, VIEWdigital
Images: Kevin Cooper, Photoline, NUJ
A room full of women at Belfast City Hall, why does this feel so rare? I have been thinking a lot this month about International Women’s Day – particularly women’s lack of visibility in the media and public life. How do you tackle the problem of not seeing role models to inspire your life?
One way forward is to go back…to the grassroots.
Third sector organisations in the city such as WOMENSTEC are helping women make a visible difference to their lives by training them to take jobs in non-traditional employment such as construction.
One student Diane stood up to make her voice heard: “WOMENSTEC has provided me with childcare and the ability to do something I didn’t think I could do. She added: “I feel completely different to when I started”.
Diane has been studying woodwork and she said she would not to waste the opportunity to move on with her life and do more study and
get a job.
Diane had responded to a challenge for a women in the room to stand up and tell their personal story from Eleanor McEvoy, an experienced businesswoman who is a Ulster University visiting Professor in Entrepreneurship, even though she did not go to university. Elaine runs Budget Energy, one of the companies that back WOMENSTEC along Belfast City Council and not-for-profit bodies such as Clanmil Housing Association.
Elaine said: “I succeeded because I was too damn stubborn not to.” She added: “People who succeed have the same fear as everyone else but they ignore the fear and move on.”
“If you have a daughter make sure they are not in a position of being financially dependent on someone else. That’s the most important advice to give to females.”
‘If you don’t want to be a doormat get off the floor’
Aine McLaughlin, (pictured above receiving an award from Eleanor McEvoy, left) the star student at the ceremony, which is an annual event organised by Women’sTEC said:. “If you don’t want to be a door-mat get off the floor”.
She told of her regrets at “throwing in the towel” due to sexism both in the workplace and within her own family 17 years ago when she was interested in technology and wanted to be a wielder. Remarks from some male colleagues at one engineering firm included: “Who does she think she is, she must be a lesbian.” Even her former husband told her engineering was “a man’s job”.
Aine said: “Seventeen years later I decided to have another go and enrolled with WOMENSTEC. They helped me by providing childcare and I want to continue my study and become a joiner and set up my own business.”
Colette Moore, the Clanmil Housing Association’s Group Director of Housing said they were partnering with WOMENSTEC as part of their community development programmes as “70 per cent of our head of households are women who want to move on with their life’s goals”
Lynn Carvill, Women’sTEC Chief Executive, said: “We want to see a society in which women succeed.”
VIEWdigital adds: “Let’s hope those who run the media and public life in Northern Ireland are listening.”