“We don’t fit the mould, but guess what? We don’t care. There’s something empowering about not bending your values for others.”
As I listened to GirlCrew Founder Aine Mulloy speak at last month’s Startup Grind in Dublin, I felt an overwhelming urge to fist bump the air. Aine is one of many Irish women that isn’t afraid to speak her mind and lead the way for younger females to follow.
The role of outspoken women in the workplace is absolutely paramount – and is something we need to encourage right now. Most entrepreneurs will need to raise cash at some point of their journey, and many of our members are currently following or recently journeyed down this path. Earlier this year we uncovered some concerning statistics as part of our Fairer Funding Now campaign. Did you know that only 9% of women believe they have equal opportunities to men to raise funding?
Something is clear: it’s important for us to act on the results of the Fairer Funding Now survey. For the past three months we have been bringing together women from all over Dublin as part of our “Speaking Out” programme at Huckletree D2. A monthly series of events, it gives up and coming founders, decision makers and future CEOs the chance to tackle obstacles holding them back at work in a supportive, welcoming environment.
I believe that many of the statistics we uncovered can be attributed to the lack of confidence in women in business. If a woman does not believe in herself, how is a VC going to believe in her enough to give her the funding to grow her business? Many of us don’t feel we naturally have the ability to speak out – but we can and will learn.
RAISE EACH OTHER UP
So, what is holding women back? In our first Speaking Out session, we explored some key elements raised by our guests:
- Confident women are often accused of being too loud, too forceful and quite often bitchy – or ‘bossy’. Confidence in women is seen to imply a lack of self-awareness and a desire to hog the limelight – something that is not prized in the hiring process.
- Women sometimes choose not to support one another in the workplace. The perception of limited space for women at the top of organisations can lead to fierce competition. Instead of buying into the lie that there are finite roles for women, we should reach back down to bring up other women as we rise up through the ranks.
- Many of us have difficulty “owning a room”. We all agreed that developing the skill to present in front of an audience was essential. “It feels funny to be standing up in front of a crowd!” was mentioned by more than one woman at our first Speaking Out evening. This may be due to a lack of high profile female role models. If women don’t see female senior staff in leading firms, the takeaway often is that women aren’t necessarily welcome in those roles.
STRENGTH IN NUMBERS
“Speaking Out” is reflective of a noticeable movement taking place in Ireland towards greater self-expression. Men and women are no longer content to remain unheard in the workplace and wider world. Speaking out gives us the ability to own our own unique voice, allows us to express our opinion and to debate with others. It allows us to have an equal seat at the table, both at home and in the workplace. We’re no longer willing to be silenced. We’re free to discuss human issues that resonate with us including pay equality, homelessness and reproductive rights.
It’s not just Huckletree who is working to drive female empowerment in Dublin and Ireland. It’s hard to narrow down my list of incredible women to who are making waves but here are a few:
- Teen Turn is placing transition year students into two-week work placements in tech companies to introduce females to STEM roles in a practical way before they make their college choices.
- Member Niamh Bushnell is leading a movement to drive awareness of the amount of money invested in female-led startup companies as part of Tech Ireland’s €100M campaign.
- Anna Cosgrave set up Repeal Project (the organisation behind the iconic black jumpers) and was an integral figure in the movement to repeal the Eighth Amendment in Ireland alongside many other incredible men and women.