Finally . . . our elected women can now deliver

WiB Group chief executive Roseann Kelly believes that with the returning Assembly comes a fresh sense of momentum

Alliance’s new childcare scheme proposes an 'alternative, child-centred way forward'
One of Women in Business Group's immediate asks for the reformed Assembly is to tackle the childcare crisis, which it says remains unaffordable and unsustainable

Belief, optimism and courage. Three words I took away from a recent leadership talk by Coca-Cola president John Murphy at the Queen’s University Chief Executives’ Club.

In many ways they encapsulate the mood music of the past seven days, when the prospect of a functioning Executive has stirred a sense of positive change for Northern Ireland.

A future outlook built on the foundation of belief, optimism and courage, all of which our Assembly needs in order to lead Northern Ireland towards a better society and economy.

Our immediate asks for the reformed Assembly are 1) to tackle the major childcare crisis we face, namely that the sector remains unaffordable and frankly unsustainable; 2) female enterprise supports needs an established pipeline of investment to help guarantee future success; and 3) more support must be given to women returners keen to reenter the workforce and positively contribute to the region’s economy.

Across the broad spectrum of Northern Ireland there exists a latent pool of talented women; women who have not been active in the labour market and who are perhaps seeking opportunities tailored to them.

The potential upshots not only for business, but wider society, are well documented. PwC’s recent Women in the Workplace report estimates that, if women in Northern Ireland were engaged at the same rate as those in London, it would add £1.7 billion to the Northern Ireland economy. It’s a staggering ‘hidden pocket’ of talent that is, frankly, staring us square in the face.

Now with the returning Assembly comes a fresh sense of momentum, which we must leverage to bring about real, long-lasting change. The Executive, the very body that makes decisions and shapes policy in Northern Ireland, has been jolted from its two-year slumber. And our elected women robbed of the opportunity to deliver following 2022′s Assembly election now finally have a chance to deliver.

Two years ago, 32 of the 90 MLAs were women in what was seen as a significant step forward towards greater equality in politics. That momentum was sadly stunted by the two-year impasse that followed, but let’s leverage this opportunity to form an Assembly that is truly inclusive. One capable of delivering for the people of Northern Ireland.

Roseann Kelly
Roseann Kelly Roseann Kelly

We now join an expectant public in looking to the house on the hill, where Emma Little-Pengelly will complete Stormont’s new-look female front alongside First Minister Michelle O’Neill.

Once the choreography to restore Stormont is complete, the focus must shift to delivery. A delivery led by women MLAs who make up a diverse Assembly. Leaders leading under the ideals of inclusivity.

  • Roseann Kelly is chief executive of the WiB Group