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The importance of celebrating progress…

The world is a better place than it was, and we should celebrate those who have had a role in creating our current reality, says Roseann Kelly, Chief Executive at Women in Business NI.

It can be much too easy to view the world we live in as unjust, unequal and unfair. While there is a time to criticise and draw attention to failings still present in society, there is also, an often over-looked, place for celebration.

In the middle of the last century – within living memory for some – the death penalty, corporal punishment and the smacking of children were not just commonplace but seen as a natural and desirable part of a civilised and advanced society. Issues in relation to racial equality; divorce legislation and contraception have advanced to a point that would be unrecognisable just a few generations past.

At Women in Business we aim to equip women with the skills they need to influence the public sphere and develop their careers, rising into senior manager and leadership positions, allowing them to implement and enact societal change. Women have played an integral role in all the above progressions and should, like their male counterparts, be given due credit.

Placing value on these progressions and the people who fought for them is not a concession that no more progress can be made, rather it creates positivity around movements for change that can sometimes be mired and stalled in negativity and doubt over their impact on society.

In Northern Ireland, Women in Business is continually pushing for gender inclusivity and encourages and supports removing the gender pay gap and ending misogyny in the workplace. As society takes the first steps in challenging these practices, we look forward to the day when these are eradicated and deemed completely unacceptable in Northern Ireland businesses.

We launched the Northern Ireland Gender Diversity Charter Mark less than a year ago and it is encouraging to highlight that to date over 24 of Northern Ireland’s top companies have formally signed up to advancing gender equality.

The move to legally require all firms with over 250 employees to annually reveal details on what they pay male and female employees is welcomed, albeit that there was no Northern Ireland Executive in place to enforce this requirement this month. This requirement to publish salary details for public scrutiny has the potential to encourage employees to tackle this issue.

Although we have great ambitions for change we must remember, that because change of any magnitude is almost always measured in decades rather than days and weeks, it is important to step back and appreciate that, as we seek for change today, we are part of something much larger and older than ourselves and that these movements stretch through centuries of toil, inching progress forward one step at a time.

Acknowledging the work already done by others and ourselves gives encouragement and motivation as we continue to fight and reminds us that injustices, discriminations and inequalities can move, do move and have moved. That deserves celebration.