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Roseann Kelly reflects on representation of females in workplace ahead of International Women's Day

'A long way to go before our goals are reached'

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From left: Jayne Taggart, CEO of Causeway Enterprise Agency, Roseann Kelly and host Sarah Travers at the Female Entrepreneurs Conference

From left: Jayne Taggart, CEO of Causeway Enterprise Agency, Roseann Kelly and host Sarah Travers at the Female Entrepreneurs Conference

From left: Jayne Taggart, CEO of Causeway Enterprise Agency, Roseann Kelly and host Sarah Travers at the Female Entrepreneurs Conference

Over the past 18 years Women in Business has changed and evolved. I no longer face a sea of black suits when attending business dinners. The optics would imply that we are everywhere - 50% women in our new Executive.

However, we still have only three female CEOs in the Top 100 companies in NI, only 17% of women in our tech sector and while the overwhelming majority of Ftse 350 companies now have women on their boards, it seems many are making only a token effort, with an attitude of "one and done". Almost 50 Ftse 250 companies have a sole female board member.

The awareness about the importance of having women in business at all levels and in diversity at all levels is very high, but it is not translating into genuine inclusive actions. Tick boxes and lip service are unfortunately commonplace in relation to gender initiatives.

Where are the part-time jobs, the flexible working, the equal pay, the access to finance? It is not enough to introduce policies, we need to actively encourage their use and this needs to come from the top, from the middle, from the bottom, from everyone.

And that is the key, we need everyone and in particular men to really get involved. To ask for part-time work, flexible work, pay transparency and equal paternity leave. It is only when we are all on the same team, working together will we actually get there.

At Women in Business, we will continue to deliver for our members, but we are but one cog in the wheel. We are supporting and encouraging women to reach their full potential, we are increasing their connections and skills, but we need others to reach out and support these women by changing systems and processes that have and will continue to block women's advancement if not changed.

All bad behaviours must be called out, someone must challenge that only one penny in every business investment pound goes to women, must challenge gender pay gaps, must challenge the lack of female specific support, must challenge all male boards.

International Women's Day is on Sunday

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