In the world of business, it’s all-too-easy to get wrapped up in day-to-day operations, focusing on things like productivity, meetings and output. However, many of our rights as humans and as workers were won by the struggles of campaigning women, and we owe much to feminist ideas in modern times. In a new Business Leaders interview, with catch up with The Feminist Shop’s Virginia Mendez & Chris McEldowney about the importance of feminism in business. Check out the full interview at the top of this article, and don’t forget to like, subscribe and share!

As we open up our discussion, Virginia Mendez takes us on a quick walkthrough of her own professional background, and how she ended up establishing a company with feminism at the core of its business model. “I started out with quite a corporate background, studying both law and business before working with DeLoitte. It wasn’t for me, and I came to Belfast with Chris to work with PwC,” shares Virginia, recalling the days before the opening of The Feminist Shop. “That job wasn’t for me, either!” she laughs.

Feminism in business with virginia mendez & chris mceldowney

Fighting Gender Stereotypes

The roots of Virginia’s business idea came when she was pregnant with her first child. Before the gender of her son was revealed, the expecting mother wrote a bilingual book against gender stereotypes. Virginia published the book – the first step in her life which gave her that taste of entrepreneurship. “After you get this taste, it’s very hard to go back to what you were doing – especially when you are so passionate about it,” she remembers. “So, I quit my job and decided to give it a proper go.”

The idea for The Feminist Shop came next, and since it was set up, its been taking up all of the spare time of the couple. Chris McEldowney’s extensive experience in eCommerce had a major role to play in establishing the online business. “My digital career started off in France, where I operated a portfolio of dating websites. I then set up my own social network for music, but that never made me the millions I thought it would,” he laughs. “I wanted another salary job, and that’s what made us look towards Northern Ireland again. I do quite a bit of eCommerce consultancy – now we are practicing what we preach!”

Viriginia describes The Feminist Shop as an online destination and an umbrella covering different aspects of feminism. “We know that feminism is experiencing a lot of stigma at the moment. We wanted to be that place where people could come to learn, whether they are unapologetically feminist – or angry feminist – that’s me!” she jokes. “We wanted to create that community and that understanding that feminism is about quality.”

feminism in business

According to the couple, digital content forms a significant part of their website’s offering. “There’s so much amazing material out there, and we couldn’t possibly create all of that ourselves. We also have associations and partnerships, giving them 10 percent of our gross profits – but we do like to let people know they exist”, explains Virginia. “You can’t explain feminism without books and reading and content. We want to start conversations and we want people to wear our products as a statement maker. Feminism is something to be proud of and not apologised for.”

Ethics From Start to Finish

The Feminist Shop is all about progressive ideas, and it doesn’t start and end with feminism. Virginia highlights that the company works through a factory run on renewable energy, with garments made fairway organic cotton. “There’s a lot of ethics involved in our business, and we wanted to make sure we were ticking all the right boxes from the very beginning,” Virginia explains. 

Encouraging consumer responsibility is a significant driver behind The Feminist Shop and the work that Virginia does for the company day-to-day. “People should ask businesses where their materials and other things come from – and each and everyone of us should have this individual responsibility. It’s what we believe in, and good or bad, we’re bringing it with us.”

“It’s an exciting time to be alive,” claims Virginia. “There’s been a lot of backlash to feminist ideas, and people are beginning to realise that the status quo is being challenged. You have people like Trump and Brazilian President Bolsonaro who are directly fighting those advancements. But we’re so connected now, and you can’t unsee things. People feel their responsibility to create a better world to live in. I genuinely believe that people are much more concerned with the positivity that they can bring to the world.”

However, there’s still a way to go, warns Chris. “Attacking that head-on with content and understanding is the goal, starting conversations with clothing. Our kids will be the leaders of tomorrow, and we need them to be an important part of that change. As parents, we need to sit down and think about how we can overcome those messages.” 

*Those wishing to learn more about The Feminist Shop, its ethos and its garments can visit the official website, as well as visiting their official Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn pages. Be sure to check them out!*

Our interview with Viriginia Mendez & Chris McEldowney joins ProfileTree’s award-winning Business Leader series, recently recognised with the Best Content Marketing Award for a Video Series at the inaugural Irish Content Marketing Awards. To take part in the series or to discover how digital marketing can transform your online business, get in touch with our expert team today. 

The Evolution of Women in Business: From Barriers to Boardrooms

The journey of women in business is a testament to resilience, grit, and the relentless pursuit of equality. Understanding the historical challenges, celebrating the progress made, and acknowledging the remaining hurdles is crucial to chart a future where boardrooms truly reflect the diversity of society.

1. Historical Challenges and Barriers:

  • Glass Ceiling: For decades, women faced blatant discrimination and were largely confined to administrative or secretarial roles, rarely gaining access to leadership positions.
  • Unequal Pay: The gender pay gap persists, with women on average earning significantly less than their male counterparts for the same work.
  • Work-life balance: Societal expectations often placed the burden of childcare and domestic responsibilities on women, hindering career advancement.
  • Hostile workplaces: Sexual harassment and discrimination were commonplace, creating an unwelcoming and unsafe environment for women.

2. Increased Representation Today:

  • Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Women are increasingly leading major corporations, holding political office, and founding successful startups, shattering stereotypes and proving their competence in all sectors.
  • Entrepreneurial Spirit: Women-owned businesses are thriving, contributing significantly to the economy and creating new pathways for success.
  • Mentorship and Advocacy: Support networks and mentorship programs are empowering the next generation of women leaders and fostering a more inclusive environment.
  • Public conversation: Growing awareness and activism around gender equality in the workplace are putting pressure on businesses and institutions to address systemic biases.

3. Ongoing Gaps at Senior Levels:

  • Leadership Pipeline: While more women are entering the workforce, they are underrepresented at senior levels, particularly in STEM fields and corporate leadership positions.
  • Unconscious Bias: Implicit biases rooted in societal norms can influence hiring, promotion, and performance evaluations, limiting women’s career progression.
  • Family Leave and Support: Lack of adequate childcare and family leave policies can disproportionately impact women’s career trajectories.
  • Work Culture and Inclusion: Hostile work environments and a lack of diversity and inclusion initiatives can discourage women from staying in traditionally male-dominated fields.

Looking Forward:

While significant progress has been made, the fight for gender equality in business is far from over. Bridging the remaining gaps requires:

  • Continued advocacy and legislation: Public policies promoting equal pay, parental leave, and anti-discrimination measures are crucial to create a level playing field.
  • Breaking down unconscious bias: Training programs and diversity initiatives can help companies identify and dismantle harmful biases in hiring, promotion, and performance evaluations.
  • Mentorship and sponsorship: Providing mentorship and sponsorship opportunities for women at all levels can accelerate their career growth and access to leadership positions.
  • Culture shift: Fostering a work culture that values inclusion, flexibility, and respect for all employees is essential to retaining and empowering women in the workplace.

The story of women in business is one of constant evolution. By acknowledging the challenges, celebrating the successes, and actively working towards a more equitable future, we can build a world where women not only hold their rightful place in boardrooms but thrive as leaders and innovators across all industries.

Cultivating a Garden of Equality: Fostering Gender Equality in Company Culture

Building a thriving company culture is about more than just beanbag chairs and free snacks. It’s about creating an environment where all employees feel valued, respected, and empowered to reach their full potential. And in this equation, gender equality is not just a box to tick, but the essential fertilizer that nourishes a truly inclusive and productive workplace.

1. Eradicating the Weeds of Unconscious Bias:

Unconscious bias, those hidden pre-conceived notions, can inadvertently creep into hiring, promotion, performance evaluations, and everyday interactions. To combat this:

  • Implement bias training: Equip employees with the tools to identify and address unconscious biases in themselves and others.
  • Standardize recruitment and promotion processes: Eliminate subjective decision-making by using clear criteria and diverse interview panels.
  • Conduct regular pay audits: Analyze and address any gender pay gaps to ensure equal compensation for equal work.
  • Promote flexible work arrangements: Offer options like remote work, flexible hours, and childcare benefits to support working parents of all genders.

2. Sowing the Seeds of Inclusive Hiring and Promotion:

Building a diverse and representative workforce starts with intentional hiring practices:

  • Focus on skills and experience over gender: Expand your talent pool by considering candidates based on their qualifications, not their gender.
  • Utilize diverse recruitment channels: Advertise in platforms traditionally underrepresented by your target demographic.
  • Set diversity goals and hold yourself accountable: Track progress towards diversity targets and implement strategies to address any imbalances.
  • Create leadership development programs: Invest in training and mentorship opportunities for employees from underrepresented groups, including women, to prepare them for leadership roles.

3. Nurturing the Blooming Potential of Working Parents:

Balancing work and family responsibilities can be a struggle for all parents, but gender stereotypes often place a disproportionate burden on working mothers. To support all parents:

  • Offer generous parental leave policies: Provide leave for both mothers and fathers, and encourage dads to take their full leave entitlement.
  • Make childcare accessible and affordable: Partner with childcare providers or offer on-site daycare options to reduce financial and logistical barriers.
  • Promote flexible work arrangements: Allow for flexible schedules, remote work options, and part-time opportunities to accommodate parental responsibilities.
  • Normalize parental involvement: Encourage open communication about families and discourage stigmatizing comments or assumptions about parental roles.

Remember: Cultivating a culture of gender equality is an ongoing process, not a quick fix. It requires sustained commitment, open communication, and a willingness to continuously learn and adapt. By proactively addressing unconscious bias, implementing inclusive hiring practices, and supporting working parents, you can create a fertile ground where all employees, regardless of gender, can thrive.

Breaking Through the Glass Ceiling: Empowering Women in Leadership Roles

The underrepresentation of women in leadership roles remains a pressing concern. But the tide is turning. Businesses are recognizing the immense value of diversity and are actively seeking ways to empower women to take their rightful place at the helm. Here are three key avenues for fostering female leadership talent:

1. Executive Sponsorship Programs:

Connecting promising women with established leaders can be a game-changer. Executive sponsors provide:

  • Mentorship and guidance: Offering advice, coaching, and career navigation based on their own experiences.
  • Visibility and opportunities: Opening doors to key meetings, projects, and leadership development programs.
  • Advocacy and championing: Speaking up for the sponsored individual and promoting their talents within the organization.

2. Building Confidence and Assertiveness:

Many women struggle with internalized biases and societal expectations that can undermine their confidence and assertiveness. Training programs can help them:

  • Identify and challenge limiting beliefs: Recognizing self-doubt and internal voices that hold them back.
  • Develop leadership skills: Mastering communication, negotiation, and decision-making skills.
  • Practice assertiveness: Learning to voice their opinions, advocate for themselves, and manage difficult conversations effectively.

3. Negotiation Skills Training:

Negotiation skills are crucial for career advancement, yet many women are hesitant to negotiate salaries and promotions. Training empowers them to:

  • Research and know their worth: Understanding market rates and their own unique value proposition.
  • Set clear goals and articulate their desired outcomes.
  • Negotiate confidently and strategically: Utilizing effective communication tactics and avoiding common pitfalls.

Additional Strategies:

  • Create inclusive work environments: Fostering a culture that values diversity, provides equal opportunities, and addresses implicit bias.
  • Offer leadership development programs: Tailored programs specifically designed to cultivate female leadership talent.
  • Celebrate success stories: Share examples of successful women leaders within the organization to inspire and motivate others.
  • Promote work-life balance: Implementing flexible work arrangements and support systems to enable women to manage their professional and personal responsibilities effectively.

Remember: Empowering women in leadership roles is not just about providing tools and opportunities. It’s about creating a systemic shift in attitudes and culture. By addressing internal and external barriers, fostering confidence, and offering the necessary support, organizations can unlock the immense potential of women leaders and reap the benefits of a truly diverse and thriving leadership team.

Bridging the Gap: Achieving Equal Pay in the Workplace

The fight for equal pay is not just about fairness; it’s about economic justice and unlocking the full potential of our workforce. While gender pay gaps persist, there are concrete steps companies can take to bridge the gap and ensure everyone is compensated fairly for their work. Let’s delve into three key strategies for achieving equal pay:

1. Shining a Light: Conducting Compensation Audits

Understanding the problem is crucial. Regular comprehensive compensation audits are essential to:

  • Identify pay disparities: Analyze data across gender, race, ethnicity, and other demographics to uncover any biases or inconsistencies.
  • Evaluate internal equity: Assess whether employees with similar jobs, responsibilities, and experience are paid equivalently.
  • Identify external benchmarks: Compare your compensation against industry standards and competitor data to ensure competitiveness.

2. Building a Just System: Updating Policies and Structures

Once you have the data, it’s time to take action:

  • Review and revise salary structures: Implement transparent and standardized pay bands based on objective criteria like skills, experience, and performance.
  • Eliminate subjective factors: Minimize reliance on subjective performance evaluations or personal factors that can perpetuate biases.
  • Address salary history bias: Don’t base new salaries on previous salaries, as this can perpetuate historical inequities.
  • Establish clear promotion pathways: Clearly define criteria for promotions and ensure promotions are based on merit, not gender or other biases.

3. Fostering Transparency and Trust: Cultivating a Fair Culture

Openness and clear communication are key to building trust and maintaining a fair work environment:

  • Publish salary ranges for job openings: Transparency in job postings can attract diverse talent and prevent undervaluing candidates.
  • Train managers on unconscious bias: Equip managers to identify and address biased assumptions in hiring, evaluations, and compensation decisions.
  • Encourage open communication about pay: Create a culture where employees feel comfortable discussing salary and compensation with colleagues and managers.
  • Provide regular pay updates: Maintain transparency through regular salary reviews and clear communication about pay adjustments.

Remember: Achieving equal pay is a continuous journey, not a one-time fix. Ongoing monitoring, policy updates, and a commitment to transparency are crucial to dismantle systemic biases and build a workplace where everyone is valued and rewarded fairly for their contributions.

Empowering the She-Force: Supporting Women Entrepreneurs to Thrive

The entrepreneurial landscape is evolving, and women are leading the charge. Yet, challenges remain. From securing funding to navigating work-life balance, women entrepreneurs face unique hurdles. Here are four key ways we can support and empower them to reach their full potential:

1. Fueling Innovation: Access to Funding and Resources

Financial backing is the lifeblood of any startup. Supporting women entrepreneurs requires:

  • Dedicated funding initiatives: Angel investor groups and venture capital firms focused on women-led businesses can bridge the funding gap.
  • Microloans and grants: Accessible microloans and grants can provide vital seed funding for early-stage businesses.
  • Financial literacy programs: Workshops and resources can equip women entrepreneurs with the knowledge and skills to manage finances effectively.
  • Pitching and negotiation training: Equipping women with the confidence and skills to present their ideas and negotiate effectively for funding.

2. Building Bridges: Mentorship and Networking Opportunities

Isolation can be a major obstacle. Fostering connections is crucial:

  • Mentorship programs: Pairing seasoned entrepreneurs with women in the early stages provides invaluable guidance and support.
  • Peer networks and communities: Creating safe spaces for women entrepreneurs to connect, share experiences, and learn from each other.
  • Industry events and conferences: Facilitating access to industry events and conferences expands networks and opens doors to new opportunities.
  • Connecting with investors and business partners: Creating platforms and workshops that connect women entrepreneurs with potential investors and collaborators.

3. Inspiring the Next Generation: Celebrating Success Stories

Visibility is key:

  • Sharing success stories: Highlighting the achievements of successful women entrepreneurs through media coverage, awards, and speaking engagements can inspire others.
  • Case studies and educational materials: Integrating the journeys of women entrepreneurs into business education curriculums can inspire young women to pursue their own entrepreneurial dreams.
  • Role model programs: Connecting aspiring women entrepreneurs with successful women in their field to learn from their experiences and gain valuable insights.
  • Creating a supportive ecosystem: Building a community that celebrates female entrepreneurship and creates a welcoming environment for women to launch and grow their businesses.

4. Work-Life Harmony: Enabling Flexible Options

Balancing business and personal life can be a struggle. Supporting women entrepreneurs requires:

  • Flexible work arrangements: Offering remote work options, flexible hours, and part-time schedules can address the needs of working mothers and those with other personal commitments.
  • Affordable childcare and family leave: Investing in accessible childcare solutions and generous family leave policies can significantly reduce the burden on women entrepreneurs.
  • Mental health and wellness resources: Providing access to mental health and wellness resources can help women navigate the pressures and challenges of entrepreneurship.
  • Promoting a healthy work-life culture: Encouraging employees to disconnect and prioritize well-being fosters a sustainable and supportive environment for all.

Remember: Supporting women entrepreneurs is not just about offering resources; it’s about dismantling systemic barriers and creating a level playing field. By providing access to funding, mentorship, networks, and flexible options, we can empower women to launch, grow, and thrive in the world of entrepreneurship.

Sparking the Flame: Driving Systemic Change for Women in Business

Achieving true gender equality in business requires more than individual actions and isolated initiatives. It demands a collective effort to dismantle systemic barriers and ignite a fire of change that consumes inequities and illuminates a path towards a truly level playing field. Here are three key ways to propel systemic change for women in business:

1. Raising the Torch: Public Advocacy and Activism

Amplifying the voices of women and advocating for change is crucial:

  • Supporting public campaigns: Engaging in advocacy campaigns, signing petitions, and contacting legislative representatives to support policies that promote gender equality in the workplace.
  • Raising awareness through media: Utilizing social media, blogs, and other platforms to raise awareness about gender biases and discrimination in business, and share positive stories of progress.
  • Participating in protests and demonstrations: Joining peaceful protests and rallies to demonstrate collective demands for change and put pressure on corporations and governments to act.
  • Lobbying for legislation: Collaborating with advocacy groups and lobbying for strong and effective legislation that promotes equal pay, parental leave, and anti-discrimination protections.

2. Building Bridges: Partnerships with Women’s Organizations

Collaboration creates stronger flames:

  • Partnering with established organizations: Join forces with established women’s organizations and advocacy groups to leverage their expertise, resources, and networks to reach a wider audience and exert greater impact.
  • Sharing resources and expertise: Collaborate on research, develop joint initiatives, and share best practices to amplify the message and maximize the reach of individual efforts.
  • Creating local support networks: Establish or join local chapters and support groups specifically focused on empowering women in business in your region.
  • Mentoring and supporting young women: Connect with mentoring programs or volunteer your time to guide and support the next generation of women leaders in business.

3. Measuring the Light: Reporting Progress and Accountability

Transparency and accountability are crucial to fuel sustained progress:

  • Tracking and reporting on gender metrics: Implement systems to track and publicly report on progress towards gender equality goals, such as representation in leadership positions, pay equity, and access to opportunities.
  • Holding organizations accountable: Call out organizations and institutions that fall short of gender equality commitments, and promote transparency and public reporting to increase pressure for change.
  • Celebrating successes and sharing best practices: Highlight success stories of companies and initiatives that are successfully driving gender equality in business, and share best practices to inspire and motivate others.
  • Conducting regular evaluations and audits: Periodically evaluate the effectiveness of implemented initiatives and policies, and adjust strategies based on data and feedback to ensure continuous improvement.

Remember: Systemic change is a marathon, not a sprint. It requires sustained commitment, collective action, and unwavering resilience. By raising our voices, building bridges, and holding ourselves and others accountable, we can illuminate the path towards a future where women in business can truly thrive and reach their full potential.

FAQ: Your Guide to Feminism in Business

Q: What does feminism in business look like?

A: Feminism in business seeks to dismantle inequalities and create a level playing field for women in all aspects of the professional world. This includes promoting equal pay, representation in leadership, access to career opportunities, and dismantling discriminatory practices.

Q: Why is feminism in business important?

A: Gender equality in business is not just a moral imperative, it’s also good for the bottom line. Studies show that diverse and inclusive companies are more innovative, profitable, and attract top talent.

Q: What can I do to support feminism in business?

A: There are many ways to get involved! You can:

  • Choose to support women-owned businesses and brands.
  • Advocate for policies that promote gender equality in the workplace.
  • Mentor and sponsor other women in your field.
  • Speak up against discrimination and bias.
  • Share your own story and experiences.

Q: Where can I find more resources on feminism in business?

A: There are many amazing organizations and resources dedicated to supporting women in business. Here are a few:

  • National Women’s Business Council (NWBC):
  • Lean In:
  • American Association of University Women (AAUW):
  • Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC):

Q: What are some common challenges faced by women in business?

A: Some of the key challenges women face include:

  • Gender pay gap.
  • Lack of access to funding and resources.
  • Underrepresentation in leadership positions.
  • Sexual harassment and discrimination.
  • Work-life balance challenges.

Q: What is the future of feminism in business?

A: The future is bright! We are seeing a growing movement of women and allies working to create a more equitable and inclusive business landscape. With continued progress and effort, we can build a world where women have the opportunity to succeed at all levels of the business world.

Conclusion: Building a Brighter Future for All

Feminism in business is not just about individual struggles; it’s about collective action and societal change. By embracing feminist principles and supporting women in their professional journeys, we can create a more just and prosperous future for all. Let’s continue to amplify the voices of women, dismantle systemic barriers, and build a world where gender equality is not just an aspiration, but a lived reality in the world of business.

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