To celebrate International Women's Day, Guaranteed Irish hosted an exclusive event at the Iveagh Gardens, where a panel of experts discussed female leadership in Ireland, the role of men in gender equality discussions, and the importance of supporting Irish fashion brands.
Guaranteed Irish, CEO, Brid O'Connell, hosted the first of 2 panels, featuring Gillian Harford, Country Executive of the 30% Club Ireland, and Marah Curtin, Director of Client Engagement in DAVY. The topic for discussion for this first panel was Female Leadership.
Opening the discussions, Gillian Harford spoke about how in 2016 she first heard about International Women's Day, but thought very little of it, with there being very little 'fanfare' around it; and how that didn't change much beyond 'pinkwashing' and 'tokenism' for several years. Gillian went on to say that International Women's Day is now more about reminding us that there is now "substance" to the day, it is no longer just about cupcakes and flags, but a day to talk about "what we're doing as employers" and how those adapting the best are now instead shifting focus back towards "what we do the other 364 days of the year".
Marah Curtin spoke about DAVY's research into the wants, needs and preferences of Ireland in 2021. The research surveyed women in the "pinnacle of their careers, ambitious for themselves, their businesses & careers, have passions outside of work, and proud of what they've achieved". However, what the research showed is that many of these same women felt trapped in their day to day routines, felt they gave too much of their time and energy to family and work, while de-prioritising themselves. "Financially speaking, 34% of women surveyed are less satisfied with their financial circumstance than men".
Marah went on to give her recommendation that in order for the country to take the next step towards gender equality, we need to de-segregate our schools; because our formative years create so many of our biases later in life, and being segregated into single-sex schools only stands to re-enforce these biases, because young boys and girls have little-to-no exposure to the opposite sex beyond family and teachers.
The panel continued on, discussing various topics such as women's aversion to investing in AVC's (additional voluntary contributions), and comparing Ireland's position on female leadership to that of other countries - including how Ireland is one of only 3 Chapters of the 30% Club to have achieved the 30% goal, with over 36% of Board Representation in Ireland.
The 2nd panel of the morning, focussing on Business & Fashion, was hosted by CIFD Chairperson Eddie Shanahan, who was joined by Heidi Higgins, Creative Director and Owner of the 'Heidi Higgins' brand. Sharon Hoey, Designer and Managing Director of 'and tate', and Christine Murphy, Founder of Urban Arran.
The 2nd panel featured a short fashion show wherein each of the 3 brands - Heidi Higgins, and tate, and Urban Aran - had the chance to display some of their sustainable, Irish-made pieces.
Eddie opened the discussions by highlighting how in a recent survey, 77% of people said they were willing to pay a premium if the products were made sustainably, and how Irish buyers are becoming more and more aware of products which are "made local vs bought local".
Heidi Higgins spoke about being now able to produce in Ireland, through 'We Make Good', whereas previously she did so in Italy & Poland. "It was never a price issue, but there was nowhere to go to". She continued on, assuring the audience that the quality in Irish production facilities are proving to be equal or better than the the top facilities in Italy. She proudly stated that moving her production to Ireland has a huge part to play in keeping women in the business.
Sharon Hoey spoke about the support she was given coming out of the Pandemic years when 'and tate' had lost a lot of business. She credits the continued success of the brand since 2021 to "A phone call from Arnotts in August 2021" saying they would be delighted to feature her products if she could deliver quickly. She did so, and has gone from strength to strength ever since.
Sharon also brought up 'and tate's' new focus on creating products which are "trans-seasonal", meaning their products last longer, thus reducing production and waste, as part of their wide sustainability plans and goals.
Christine Murphy spoke about the pivot from online and e-commerce during COVID, back to in-person shopping and bricks and mortar stores. She praised and thanked the support systems put in place in 2020 to help the company develop a new website and stay in business through online sales, but said that nothing compared to in-person shopping, stating the importance of the "customer being able to touch and feel the fabric" which simply cannot be replicated online.
She went on to praise the role the Guaranteed Irish symbol plays in Urban Aran's success, saying that it was "always [her] goal to make in Ireland" and that, like Heidi Higgins she was recently able to move production of her collections from overseas for her first collection, to her newest collection being fully made in Ireland.
Watch back the full event on our YouTube Channel.