On International Women's Day, we celebrate the achievements of women and highlight the importance of equality in leadership to create positive and productive work environments. We caught up with some of our successful women in leadership roles at publicjobs.ie who share their personal experiences in their careers and offer advice and inspiration to others to help them build fulfilling careers.
Julie McCafferty, Chartered Work & Organisational Psychologist at publicjobs.ie
1. This year's International Women's Day theme is Choose to Challenge. From your perspective, what are the benefits of choosing to challenge?
I recently read that the EU is at least 60 years away from reaching complete gender equality if we continue at the current pace. By choosing to challenge we highlight where gender inequalities lie and can then work towards making real change in an effort to create a more equal society for all.
2. What would you say to women considering a career in the public and civil service?
I would highly recommend a career in the public and civil service to everyone from all backgrounds. There is a good work-life balance, job security, as well as a lot of opportunities to progress and a variety of areas to work in.
3. What's the best piece of leadership advice you were ever given?
To be your authentic self with people. Don't be afraid to ask when you need help or admit when you don't know something. People connect better with you when you are yourself and nobody is an expert in everything! Draw from the strengths in your team and this benefits everyone individually and the team as a whole.
4. What do you think is the biggest issue facing women and their careers today?
I think the disproportionate burden of domestic work is a huge barrier to women across the world. Women do the vast majority of the unpaid work, including childcare and housework. I found out recently that on average, Irish women spend almost 11 hours more per week caring for others and 10.5 hours more per week on housework than men. This is a barrier to women progressing in their careers, as well as giving them less time to participate in social, personal, and leisure activities.
5. In your opinion, why is it important that more women take up careers in sectors where they are currently underrepresented?
I think a gender balance in any sector benefits all and often it is stereotypes and systemic obstacles that prevent women from accessing certain sectors. Women are also underrepresented in decision-making roles across many sectors and this is particularly problematic when we consider their representation at the decision-making level in public health and government.
Redressing the gender imbalance can allow women to take up jobs that are more highly paid than those in traditionally female sectors which would help reduce the gender-based pay gap. Within decision-making, gender equality has positive economic consequences for society; it has been found to broaden perspectives, increase creativity and innovation, diversify the pool of talents and competencies, reduce conflicts and improve the process of decision-making.
6. What barriers have you faced in becoming successful in your field and how did you overcome them?
As occupational psychology is a relatively new field in Ireland, there are not a huge amount of jobs advertised as 'occupational psychology' positions but there are many roles including those in HR and L&D that occupational psychologists can excel in. Many employers do not understand what you do and what you can bring to their organisation. Therefore, as an occupational psychologist, you need to be highly motivated and really manage your career. I sought out opportunities and training that could help me develop my skillset and tailored my CV to highlight what I can bring to various different roles. I also found mentors in my field that supported and guided me, which was particularly beneficial at the beginning of my career.
7. Which female leaders inspire you and why?
Mary Robinson as I think she transformed Ireland when she became the first ever female President in 1990. She paved the way for Irish women in terms of women's rights and gender equality. Growing up having female presidents from a young age showed me that women can get right to the top.
8. What important message would you share with young women thinking about their future careers?
I would advise them to find something they love to do and pursue it…and don't let anyone tell you that you can't!