Thursday 5 December 2019

'MeToo's been weaponised against us - so women need to hire other women'

Worried: Jameela Jamil says she is concerned at the lack of female business leadership in Ireland. Photo: Sela Shiloni
Worried: Jameela Jamil says she is concerned at the lack of female business leadership in Ireland. Photo: Sela Shiloni
Laura Lynott

Laura Lynott

She's an international star and activist - but as Jameela Jamil embarks on her journey in the world of business, she wants to see more Irish women being promoted to executive level.

Jamil (33), who had a stratospheric rise from British TV and radio presenting to Netflix hit show 'The Good Place', says she is concerned by a lack of female business leadership here.

"I don't see enough Irish female executives and they are no less intelligent than anyone else," Jamil told the Irish Independent.

"In fact, all the Irish people I know are some of the smartest, funniest people, so therefore I can't really understand this.

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"But it's not just an Irish problem, it's a UK and a worldwide problem.

"We need more women at the top."

The businesswoman is anxious about reports that fewer women are being hired as an unexpected consequence of the MeToo movement.

'Forbes' reported last month that fewer women were being employed in jobs where they would interact with men.

She believes that internationally there's an increasing backlash from men in business against women.

"It's so depressing," she said. "There's a belief we're being punished for speaking out about sexual assault and harassment.

"Men are now saying that's an excuse to hire other men, as they don't feel safe, as we might accuse them of something.

"You can imagine how unsafe they'd feel in our shoes, where we're afraid we might get murdered or raped.

"I can really empathise with them, how scary, my heart bleeds.

"This (MeToo) is being weaponised against us, so women have to hire each other.

"We have to have more women at the top, it's vital we use our money to support female businesses."

Jamil will tomorrow be giving the closing keynote speech on 'The True Measure of Self Worth' at the Simmons Leadership Conference at the Citywest Hotel, Dublin, via link-up from LA.

"We really want to make sure to create space for women because we're being pushed out aggressively, almost more than we were five years ago," she said.

"So in order to create roles for women, we're going to need women at the helm."

The activist, who's launching her new company I Weigh in the new year, said traditionally religious countries such as Ireland and Pakistan had "repressed women".

This "overarching religious presence" had "filtered out into the culture" leading to a "history of women being held back and not given extra chances", she added.

"And it's only to the detriment of the economy."

Jamil, who starred alongside Ted Danson and Kristen Bell in the US comedy, has campaigned as a feminist, body and mental health activist.

And she's currently hiring an all-woman team for I Weigh - a company with a "body neutrality" emphasis, building activism and "allyships" with tailored content and ethical products.

The businesswoman has criticised companies and celebrities, such as Kim and Khloé Kardashian, who recently promoted diet lollipops.

Jamil, who previously spoke about having an eating disorder as a teenager, added: "It's not worth it.

"I remember how brands like that made me feel as a child, so I don't want to be a part of it and I'm trying my best to walk the walk."

She's making a call for Irish women to contact I Weigh via social media if they are interested in working for her - but anyone who gets a job offer would have to relocate to LA.

"My business will support a lot of female businesses, especially women of colour."

The Simmons Leadership Conference will take place tomorrow and Wednesday, and features international female leaders of prominence.

For more information and tickets, visit: leadership.simmons.edu/international

Irish Independent

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