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Socking it to gender inequality in politics


BALANCE OF POWER Caroline Kirrane, startup advisor and finance lecturer, is helping Women for Election train women wishing to enter politics ahead of the next local and general elections.  
Pic: kinlanphotography.ie

Claremorris woman leads €50k crowdfunding campaign

Ciara Moynihan

The issue of gender balance in the Dáil was last week once again thrown into the spotlight. In between jogging and showing off their socks to one another, Canadian premier Justin Trudeau and our new taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, discussed, among other things, female representation in politics. Trudeau gave the rather dazzled-looking Varadkar some advice: ‘It’s the smart thing to do’, he said. Quite.
The Canadian leader, who heads the centrist Liberal Party, has been praised for achieving a 50:50 gender-balanced cabinet. Meanwhile, Varadkar’s ministerial appointments were seen as a let down to many: Of the 34 senior and junior positions the he had to fill, just seven were given to women.
Sharing his views at a joint press conference in Dublin, Trudeau highlighted the need to establish supports for women so that they feel comfortable, confident and ambitious in this hitherto male-dominated realm.     
“When you ask a woman to step forward and run, her first question is, ‘Really do you think I should? Do you think I can? Do you think I’m qualified enough?’. When you ask a man to run for politics, his first question is, ‘Well, what took you so long to ask me?’,” he said, adding: “It does take a deliberate effort to reach out and recruit great women candidates.”
In response, Leo admitted that there weren’t enough women in the Dáil, and announced that he would follow Trudeau’s example of recruiting more women to run in the next general election.
The exchange will have been watched with interest by Claremorris-native Caroline Kirrane. The startup advisor and adjunct lecturer in Finance at Trinity College Dublin is spearheading a crowdfunding #MoreWomen campaign that aimed to raise €50,000 for Women for Election, which will use the funds to subsidise training 300 women to stand for election.
‘Aimed’, past tense: The campaign met and surpassed that goal early last week. At time of writing, the fund had amassed a not-too-shabby €55,927. That’s an extra 35 women on top of the 300. Watch out Leo. Kirrane volunteered to run the #MoreWomen campaign for Women for Election after an event that made many want to stick their head in the sand, or indeed the oven: Donald Trump’s election as president of the United States.  
“When I woke up to find Trump had been elected president, despite his controversial attitudes to women, I decided to volunteer with Women for Election to see if I could contribute to improving diversity in politics here,” she explains.
“My experience in finance and working with startups was enormously useful in co-ordinating this campaign, and I’m delighted that I could contribute to Women for Election’s work in this way. We set ourselves an ambitious target of €50,000 for this campaign, which is very much an entrepreneurial endeavour run entirely by volunteers.’’
The campaign was launched by Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald at an event hosted at Twitter’s headquarters in Dublin on June 15. The idea is to tap in to the goodwill of people countrywide who would like to support women entering politics by removing barriers to entry.
The response was phenomenal. In the first week alone, #MoreWomen raised a remarkable €30,000.
Women for Election describes itself a ‘non-partisan, not-for-profit organisation whose vision is of an Ireland with balanced participation of women and men in political life’. The organisation provides practical support to inspire, equip and inform women entering politics, and help them overcome such barriers as ‘the 5 Cs - Cash, Candidate Selection, Culture, Childcare and Confidence’.
Since its establishment in 2012, Women for Election has trained over 1,000 women to take the next step on their political journeys. Of the 194 women who secured seats in the 2014 local elections, half were trained on Women for Election programmes, while in the 2016 General Election, 40 percent of the newly elected women TDs had been through the programmes.
“We want to see more gender equality in Irish politics,” stresses Kirrane. “The recent cabinet reshuffle was disappointing in that regard. But this crowdfunding campaign gives everyone the opportunity to help achieve balance by contributing to the work Women for Election does inspiring and supporting women to take the first step and make a difference in politics.”
Maybe a portion of the funding could be directed towards the provision of novelty socks?    
To support Women for Election’s #MoreWomen campaign, visit www.indiegogo.com/projects/morewomen, where donors can opt for a number of donation dividends, from badges, tote bags and posters to unique experiences like a specially commissioned Women for Election short story by award-winning Irish author Martina Devlin.


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