Belfast Telegraph

High-flying women leading from front

Editor's Viewpoint

Does the glass ceiling for women in business still exist in the 21st century? Judging by the fact that only six of those heading up Northern Ireland's Top 100 companies are female, the answer -at least superficially - would appear to be yes.

That is a sad commentary on the opportunities for women to play their full part in developing the local economy given that they account for some 45% of the workforce.

However, drill down a little deeper into the figures and it is apparent that significant cracks are appearing in the glass ceiling, with three of the top five performing companies headed by women.

They are in diverse sectors - agri-foods and utilities, the latter most significant as traditionally women have been reluctant to enter the hugely male-dominated engineering professions.

What their success and those of the other female executives in the list prove is that women with talent, drive and opportunity are as capable of heading up hugely successful companies as their male counterparts.

That is not to be patronising to women, as two other females who have been in the limelight in recent days prove in spades. Northern Ireland's First Minister Arlene Foster has just repeated her party's most successful election campaign - mostly built around her own personality.

Given that she is the first woman to lead the very conservative DUP - and was a defector in the relatively recent past from the Ulster Unionist Party - that was no mean achievement, especially as she has just been at the helm since December. She has proved herself a formidable politician and that drive may well have propelled her to high position in the legal profession had she chosen to stay with that career.

We also have the inspiring story of Belfast-born Anne Morrison, the outgoing chair of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, who is one of the most important players in the vastly lucrative global entertainment and media industry and who had a glittering career in the BBC.

All the above women should serve as role models for the young girls entering employment at this time. They demonstrate that if women have the will and ability to succeed they can reach the very top of their chosen careers. Certainly balancing work and family is more difficult for most women but it is not an insuperable obstacle. They just need the chance.

Belfast Telegraph


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