Here's a sobering thought for you. Our current financial woes may have been avoided had we had more women in top jobs in our banks and in other powerful positions during the boom years. A strong female influence in the boardroom could have thwarted the macho, testosterone-driven recklessness that wreaked so much havoc during the boom years.
This isn't some delusionary codswallop. Instead, it's based on a series of reports on the positive influence of having more women on corporate boards. The EU Commission this week stated in its report on 'Women in Economic Decision-Making in the EU' that "the quality of corporate governance and ethical behaviour is high in companies with high shares of women on boards".
The commission is now considering introducing legislation to force companies to have a 40pc representation of women on their boards by 2020.
And it's not just about responsible and ethical behaviour. Profits also go up when more women are in top positions. Ernst & Young found that earnings at the world's largest publicly-listed companies were significantly higher when there was at least one woman on the board. In its 2010 'Women Matter' report, the management consultancy firm McKinsey concluded that "gender-balanced" companies had a 56pc higher operating profit compared to male-only companies.
So imagine for a moment that Sean FitzPatrick, the disgraced former boss of Anglo Irish Bank, had been a woman. And let's say half of her board members were also women. How different things might be for us now. Instead of facing years of penury for bailing out this financial delinquent, we might be doing okay. A female Seanie, with a good team of women advisers, would surely not have funded the avaricious developers whose egos now lie buried beneath the rubble of their empty buildings that blight our landscape.
And of course, Seanie wasn't the only pinstriped bank we could have done without. Imagine if Michael Fingleton, Eugene Sheehy and Brian Goggin had been women? Irish Nationwide, AIB and Bank of Ireland might still be respectable, viable institutions with a bright future. And we mightn't all be living in a country traumatised by plummeting house prices and negative equity and dealing with a government that dreams up every stunt possible to squeeze the last cent out of us.
And from the boardroom to the cabinet. The argument to have more women in leadership positions across all strata of society is compelling.
How different things might be today if a home-grown version of Angela Merkel had been our Taoiseach instead of Bertie Ahern. It's difficult to imagine Ms Merkel shoving loads of money into a safe in her office and pretending that this was an alternative to opening a bank account. And she surely would not have been gullible or conniving enough to allow an inflated property bubble to escalate into an all-out disaster.
And what if Mr Ahern's successor hadn't been Brian Cowen but a kind of Maggie Thatcher-like leader? It's unlikely Mrs Thatcher would have stayed up late at night enjoying pints and singing songs with her fellow revellers at a time when crucial decisions on the country's future were being taken. After all, we know the Iron Lady was an early riser who needed little sleep and who approached her work with sober determination.
When it comes to politics in Ireland, women are woefully under-represented. Just 25 women were elected to Dail Eireann in the 2011 elections. It's an abysmal record that can only be addressed with an effective gender quota system.
Hopefully, Minister Phil Hogan's 2011 Electoral Bill will facilitate the rise of female political power. It's proposing that 30pc of candidates fielded in the next election are to be women. That's to rise to 40pc within seven years. Parties that don't play ball will be penalised.
Like them or loath them, quotas are essential if the gender gap is too large to be equalised under normal circumstances. Critics of them complain that they'll lead to second-rate female candidates gaining seats in parliament. It's a weak argument, given the mediocre calibre today of some of our male politicians in both the Dail and the Seanad. And anyway, the more women we encourage into politics, the more likely we are to attract the smart, able ones into our parliament.
Just look to the Nordic states as examples. In Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland, on average between 40 to 45pc of representatives in their national parliaments are women. This is due to a combination of mainly voluntary quotas and particularly decades of progressive legislation that created a culture that encouraged women to enter political life.
The Nordic states have been well ahead of us in introducing family-care and other policies that enabled women to participate in local and national politics. It may take Ireland decades to catch up with these countries unless we introduce gender quotas to tackle the unacceptable imbalances between the number of male and female representatives in the Oireachtas. And a higher proportion of women in parliament is likely to lead to more progressive legislation to facilitate a healthier political gender balance.
What's more, strong female role models will inspire other women into politics.
Denmark is an interesting example. Its first female prime minister was recently elected into office. Helle Thorning-Schmidt is the leader of the Social Democrats and head of a left-leaning alliance of three parties. One of her coalition partners is the Danish Social Liberal Party, which is also led by a woman. So far, Denmark's glamorous new leader is proving her mettle. She's promising to ease harsh immigration rules in Denmark and she's adeptly handling the presidency of the European Union, which Denmark currently holds.
A riveting new Danish television series, recently broadcast on BBC Four, is loosely based on Ms Thorning-Schmidt. 'Borgen' centres on the charismatic politician Birgitte Nyborg who becomes Denmark's first female prime minister. During the series, Ms Nyborg deftly manages the nasty cut-and-thrust of politics and survives several political landmines that nearly unseat her. She even loses her husband along the way when he can't handle the heat in the kitchen, with his powerful wife leaving him tied to the kitchen sink.
'Borgen' is a good analogy of how tough life can be in politics but it also shows how able women are for the top job. We should do everything possible to encourage women to become leaders and to potentially avoid the pitfalls their male counterparts fell for during the doomed boom years.