Business told to change culture or see brain drain of women from workforce
Corporate Ireland is not doing enough for working women who want to progress in their careers and raise a family, businesswoman Lucy Gaffney told the WXN Women's Executive Network event at the Westin Hotel yesterday.
Addressing a room full of fellow businesswomen, she warned that "there's a brain drain of women in their 30s and 40s from the workforce" as a result.
"We need to make it easier for women to raise children and progress within the workforce.
"Whether it's helping with crèche facilities or introducing flexitime, we need to address the issue. The culture in corporate Ireland needs to change and we need to take a more creative approach to childcare."
Ms Gaffney, who was chief operating officer at Esat Telecom when it was bought by British Telecom in January 2000, added: "We have women in the workplace running home at 5.30pm to make dinner competing with men who can stay at their desks until 10pm - that's something the boss notices.
"It's about being able to achieve a work/life balance."
She said that at Digicel, founded by businessman Denis O'Brien where she is non-executive director, 39pc of managers and 55pc of the workforce is made up of women.
"We are not happy with this and we are focused on building confidence and putting the right work practices in place to encourage more women to go for senior positions.
"If I was given the choice of a 23-year-old and a 53-year-old woman with an up-to-date skillset, I would choose the latter," she added.
Every business is under pressure to deliver high growth sales and profitability, she said.
"The world of radio, newspapers, petrol stations, telecoms has radically changed in the last 10 years but we are now seeing an acceleration of these changes," she added.
Yesterday, she shared key pointers learned in a 30-year career, starting as secretary in a Dublin school and rising to the boardroom at Digicel.
"You will never succeed if you try to hide your vulnerability, it is a strength," she said.
In addition, the importance of training and upskilling can't be overstated, Ms Gaffney added.