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On Being a "Hero"...

I have to say, as I type this, I am deeply uncomfortable with the title of the post - but there is an explanation underpinning it! Last week, I received the "StartUp Hero" award from the StartUp Awards - in recognition of my work on female entrepreneurship, gender equality and diversity. As a firm believer in the role we all play in making change happen, this was a really nice honour but also one I hadn't quite expected, which made it all the more special.

Photo Credit: Linda Ní Chualladh

Having been presented with the beautiful trophy (inset), I had several interesting conversations with other attendees and indeed, my two friends, Ciara and Linda, who'd joined me on the night. In the midst of the mirth and chatter, there was also a tinge of disappointment, and resignation at the notion that yes, there's much work to be done. Now, you might say, well you would say that - given it's an area of personal interest. Not true, for the path of people like me is to forge gender equality - not facilitate continuance of the current scenario.

The initial realisation was the dearth of women on the stage during the course of proceedings - "non-men", it seems, are hard to come by. Of the thirty or so individuals on-stage, there were probably no more than eight to ten women.

Furthermore, the most sobering thought, made more noticeable by my nerves - was the fact that the only woman speaking on the stage, was in fact, me.

Congratulations came from many, and there was definite sincerity from those who spoke about the importance of diversity in ensuring - not just balance - but better functioning businesses. However, there was still an air of 'do we really have an issue here?' about other conversations.

I appreciate the irony that must be apparent by virtue of that comment but the reality is - for many, there isn't an issue. Everything's fine! Gender equality isn't an issue because it simply doesn't pose a problem.

Quit complaining, sure aren't there loads of you in the workforce now? Loads of you in the media? Loads of you doing loads of things?

Let's be clear - this is an attitude that pervades society in general - indeed, I have had to explain the stats and facts to almost as many women as men. I often think the "sure it's grand now, isn't it?" argument mirrors much of Geena Davis's Institute on Gender in Media research, which indicates that, in crowd scenes, where there are 17% women, there is a perception that the group is split 50/50% - if there's 33% women, the perception is that there are more women than men.

Why is this? Well, it's a theme that connects with many other of my other blogs on the matter - including the issue of unconscious (and sometimes conscious) bias. It's an issue which is confined not just to opportunity but also to visibility - and as a consequence, has real impact in terms of achieving gender equality.

As the oft-cited phrase on this very point goes: "you can't be what you can't see".

Photo Credit: Linda Ní Chualladh

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