Fórsa president Ann McGee spoke about the challenges and opportunities faced by women trade unionists in leadership positions during a panel discussion organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Union's (ICTU) Women’s Committee on International Women’s Day. The event, which brought 150 delegates to Newcastle, Co Down, backed plans for a new leadership and mentoring programme for women in trade unions.
Along with other senior female union leaders from Ireland and the UK, Ann noted the challenges she and many other women face. Describing her average week, she told the seminar that she could pack her car on a Monday morning and not return home until the following Friday evening.
"I feel the union world forgets you have a life – family, friends and a job – outside the movement," she said.
However, she also emphasised the vital position female engagement plays in our communities. She said women's full participation is essential for their own empowerment, and to advance society as a whole.
ICTU general secretary Patricia King announced the federations intention to launch a leadership and mentoring programme. After a lively debate delegates informally voted in favour of making it exclusive to women.
Commenting on the result Margaret Coughlan, a leading Fórsa activist who chairs the ICTU Women’s Committee said, “Women aren’t naturally drawn to putting ourselves forward for leadership positions and so this programme will offer encouragement and support to those who need it most. It’s important that women are supported in their endeavours to further their careers in the workplace and the union movement.”