An International Women's Day Chamber of Commerce event ended with a call to action for women in Guernsey to help drive gender equality.
An action group is being put together following a panel discussion about gender disparity in the island, representation of women in public office and comparisons with Jersey.
The event saw a panel of women discuss what it means to be a professional woman in Guernsey and what changes women are driving for the future.
The panel included owner and Director of Flexible Working Solutions Ellie Lawrence.
“We [women] are making steps to get where we want to be, but it is not happening fast enough,” she said.
“It’s great that conversations of gender equality are happening, but we need less talking and more action.”
Pictured: Panellists at the Chamber of Commerce International Women's Day event.
Women in Public Life Chair Shelaine Green said that representation for women in public office would be a huge factor in progressing change.
“There are currently eight women in the States and they are doing incredible jobs, but women make up 50.5% of the population, so we should be represented proportionately and half of the decision makers should be women,” she said.
“I am not comfortable having important decisions made about my life by people who haven’t lived anything like my life.
“The female States’ deputies have been sucked up into committees, some in presidential roles, which is fantastic but it means that all their time is spent delivering the committee mandates and they don’t have time to drive change in other areas. We need women in the backbenches.”
Pictured: Shelaine Green said it was "fantastic" that female deputies, like Lindsay de Sausmarez, have been given presidential committee roles.
The topics of maternity and paternity leave, childcare costs and flexible working were discussed by the panel and attendees.
“In Jersey, 52 weeks of leave for all parents, of which six weeks will be paid at 100% of pay by the employer, became effective in 2020,” said Ms Green.
“When that happened, I was waiting for the backlash in Guernsey, waiting for the public to want the same to be made available here, but all I heard was crickets.
“There is a massive gap in Guernsey for pushing issues like parental leave and flexible working; we need the twinning of a push from the outside and people on the inside who are receptive.”
Pictured: Differences in parental leave between Jersey and Guernsey were discussed at the event.
Ms Green said the Women in Public Life organisation could not fill this gap.
“We [Women in Public Life] focus on a specific area of helping support women who want to take up roles in public office.
“We often get questions about other issues and we are very conscious that currently there is nowhere to direct those women to get answers.
“We are stretched to capacity but we would fully support, and be absolutely delighted, if a group came together to fill this gap.”
Panellist and Managing Director of De Garis Accounting, Diane De Garis, echoed Ms Green’s comments and is encouraging women to come forward to be part of the new group.
“We do need some practical changes in Guernsey so that we can move to true equality; those changes will benefit the whole of society, including men,” she said.
Pictured: Diane De Garis said women in the workplace are impacted by having babies.
“Women are more impacted by the life changes of having babies, of menopause; everything impacts women in the workforce," continued Ms De Garis.
“I think something really good and positive has come out of today and there are things, like what is already happening in Jersey and elsewhere in the world, that can be done in Guernsey.”
Ms De Garis said she was excited at the prospect of the new group.
“We need to make a list of changes that can be made and we need to create an industry group for women to drive forward some practical change.
“I have already had women approach me and say they would like to be a part of this; it’s very exciting.”
Women who are interested in finding out more about the new action group are asked to contact Brooke Kenyon at Orchard PR or the Chamber of Commerce.
Pictured: Managing Director of De Garis Accounting Diane De Garis.
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