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UCC celebrates International Women’s Day

Maeve McTaggart

Monday 8th March marked International Women’s Day, and online events commemorated the year’s chosen them: achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world. UCC celebrated the occasion with a powerful video put together by its Bystander Intervention team, where women in leadership from across UCC told the camera why they #ChoosetoChallenge. The social media campaign featured students and staff from across multiple departments, societies and clubs to highlight the importance of ensuring there are enough women leaders in UCC and beyond. 

“I choose to challenge because gender should never be a reason that someone isn’t offered equal opportunities in life and because we need to take an intersectional approach to equality in our future,” Chloe Boland, UCCSU Gender Equality representative said, emphasizing a point made by those featured throughout the video: more women in leadership, makes better outcomes for all.

Niamh Browne, the Features and Opinions Editor for UCC’s Motley Magazine, said: “I am a firm believer that the more people we pull around to our table, the better our products are going to be or the outcome of our talks are going to be. Every conversation I think benefits from more voices being heard and more perspectives being engaged with.”

Social media campaigns and celebrations characterised Ireland’s International Women’s Day 2021, where the nation continues to live and work from home to curb the spread of COVID-19. Despite this, messages were made more accessible to those at UCC and further afield, with Professor Sarah Culloty, the newly-appointed and first woman Head of the College of Science, Engineering and Food Science at UCC, giving advice to her 17-year-old self on the Instagram page of the university.

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions and admit you don’t know something,” Professor Culloty said, “I am still learning every day and asking questions, but I know at 17 that seems like such a hard thing to admit.”

“I think you will find that your time in university will make you a stronger, more resilient person with a broader, more understanding perspective on life. It will provide you with an amazing career, but you will also realise that it is your love of what you do, your interest in people, taking up every opportunity that you get, that will get you where you want to go.” 

Amongst webinars and online events, discussions surrounding the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day were not lost. With the objective of exploring and empowering female leadership to achieve equality in a COVID-19 world, attention turned to those on the frontlines and those making the decisions about COVID-19 in Ireland. 

In an open letter penned by the Covid Women’s Voices group, an all-island group of women who work in areas including medicine, health care, psychology, law, academia, and advocacy, the group seeks to emphasise the toll the pandemic has taken on Irish women who are “disproportionately bearing the burden of a pandemic that has heralded untold grief and wrought economic havoc.” 

The third lockdown has illustrated “the inequalities, including structural, social and economic barriers, still faced by women,” the letter, published in the Irish Examiner, reads: “Our largely female healthcare force, facing dual challenges in the workplace and at home, can only absorb so much of the societal and economic shocks of Covid-19.” 

Eighty percent of healthcare workers in Ireland are women, statistics have revealed, and account for seventy-seven percent of COVID-19 cases amongst healthcare workers. Despite this, no women sit on the Cabinet Sub-Committee on COVID-19 and Cork doctor, Dr. Niamh Lynch, has called for women to be involved in the decision-making process as “the needs of women, which are different to the needs of men, [must be taken] into account.”

International Women’s Day 2021 was an incredibly visible event on social media, hosted with the hopes of encouraging increased representation of women in leadership and in decision-making roles, especially surrounding COVID-19.