International Women’s Day: Inspiration

Created on March 10, 2021
Last updated on September 19th, 2022 at 2:05 pm by Joanna Murphy

Growing up in Ireland

On International Women’s Day, I reflect upon how proud I am of the women of Ireland, and the journey that they have taken during my lifetime, to greater equality. When I was born, whilst we were considered to live in a Republic, Ireland was still one of the most conservative countries in the world. The Catholic Church controlled most aspects of daily life, government, and education while fostering massive inequality. The Marriage Bar, which prohibited married women from working in the public sector, had only just been dissolved, and divorce, contraception, and abortion were illegal. Daily life was often ruled by shame which had profound and horrific effects on women and children.

How far we have come

Thankfully, growing up, change was afoot. A particularly inspiring event for me was the election of Ireland’s first female President in 1990, Mary Robinson.

Mary Robinson, Ireland’s first female President

As a young girl, the election of Mary Robinson was monumental – an indication that times were changing, and that Ireland had finally voted in a female head of state. Mary Robinson became a symbol for change in Ireland, a president to be proud of,completely revolutionising the country’s top position and paving the way for another female president. When President Robinson did step down from the presidency, she continued to pursue public work on the international stage by becoming UN Commissioner for Human Rights.

Although now retired, Mary hosts a clever and informative podcast called Podcast “Mothers of Invention” about women around the world who are driving solutions to climate change.

Since the 90’s, with a few steps forward and more than one or two back, Ireland has made consistent progress to become a more inclusive and tolerant society. Divorce was finally legalised in 1996 and more recently, we have had two pivotal referenda; in 2015 by a landslide vote, Marriage Equality, or Gay Marriage Rights was enacted and in 2018, full reproductive rights were established for the first time.

“I Stand in Awe of all Mná (women)”.

Growing up in Ireland, I would never have believed that the extent of these changes would be possible. Whilst there is still much work to be done – parliamentary representation is woeful, for example –  the country is a much more tolerant, inclusive, and equal place to live. I am proud of these profound changes in our society and would have not believed such improvements would be achieved in my lifetime. Ireland stills needs to face up to the past and the horrific abuses perpetrated by Church and State, but I am incredibly optimistic about the future for Irish Women – as a recent slogan states “I Stand in Awe of all Mná (women)”.

About the Author

Joanna Murphy is President of Rizing’s HCM EMEA business. Located in Rizing’s Dublin, Ireland, offices, Joanna has a BA with honors in Informtaion Studies from Leeds Metropolitan University and Professional Diploma in Digital Marketing from Dublin Institute of Technology.



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