Our panel on: Work-Life Balance



Fiona Haughney My husband and I both have full-time jobs. He leaves work at 4.30pm every day to come home and relieve my minder. He has the kids until I get home. I come in at about 6.30pm, and then he works when they’ve gone to bed. I see them for three hours a day. I would never see myself as a stay-at-home mum. I would go up the wall. And yet I’m considering taking time out to spend time with the kids because I really miss them.

Freda McGrane I can’t see how we can sustain the position we’re in where the majority of people are on low incomes and have no choice but to keep working. I didn’t have it easy, by any means, but I think it’s worse now for many families.

Eilish Hardiman I’m the person to whom people apply to take time out. I am very flexible about it. What I have encountered lately is both male and female and consultants applying to take time out for family reasons. I was surprised by how difficult they found coming to ask for it, the men especially. With luck, there will be a trickle down from that, but, gosh, it’s taking a long time.

Marissa Carter When my son Charlie was born I was in the early stages of launching my own tan product. I wanted to get it out there, but very quickly I felt so overwhelmed. I was at home with the baby on my own all day long, and I was trying to start a new business. And I just remember being incredibly depressed, feeling as if I had entered this black hole that I had dug myself into. I felt I couldn’t give up. Charlie was a good six months old before I asked for any help.

Siobhán Parkinson When my son was very young I was working freelance, and I remember sitting by the cot, desperately wanting him to go to sleep so I could get back to work. We lost our second baby then, and everything changed after that. I decided I wasn’t going to spend the rest of my life doing what I was doing, and I started to write. My husband also decided to take a career break; he’s now a woodturner. Both of us were very affected by the loss of the baby. It was very sad, but it had good consequences. I always think that baby came as a gift.


Eilish Hardiman Role models are key, and yet we still have a lot to do. I come from nursing, and I look at the nursing profession. There are three leadership positions, and they are all filled by men. Women are not taking up the key positions in a predominantly female profession.

Ciara Brennan I think we’re getting better at getting things for ourselves, but we’re not bringing other women with us. In education we are seen as caregivers and care providers, and we need to start involving ourselves more at policy level. We have had five [women] ministers for education out of the past 37, and all of those have been in the past 30 years. We have, year on year, somewhere between 85 and 89 per cent of class teachers who are women, but 53 per cent of principals are women. It’s not that those women aren’t wonderful, assertive class teachers who understand their role, but they have this fear of bringing people with them.

Caroline Erskine It’s so important that we have people who are good scientists, technologists, economists, farmers and nurses who are women and we can see them: we see everything through the prism of the media. If you have a panel, because women have leaned back due to a lack of confidence, or childcare problems, or whatever, another generation is going to grow up with the view that the only people who rise to become decision-makers are men, that the only good scientists are men; the only good economists are the same ones who appear on panels. Women are self-limiting that way.

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