How women have inspired communities throughout the pandemic

By Seamus McCorry, Regional Director, Virgin Media Business (Direct)

 
During a year of dramatic change across Northern Ireland and the UK I have been inspired by stories of women adapting to their new every day.
Whether it is juggling home-schooling and professional lives or leading the direct response to Covid-19 as key workers, there are uplifting stories all around us.
 
Because our daily lives have been so busy, stressful, and unpredictable there has seldom been time to celebrate these moments of passion and dedication. So, it was an honour for us to speak at the Women in Business NI Awards and take a moment to reflect on some of them.
If it wasn’t for Professor Sarah Gilbert, for example, we might not be looking forward to a life without restrictions at all.
 
Earlier this year she told BBC Radio 4’s The Life Scientific programme about how she almost dropped out a studying science because working in laboratories can be so isolating.
 
She persevered, and after years working as a researcher and academic, went on to become Professor of Vaccinology at the University of Oxford. It was her team of scientists who pioneered the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine that is now being rolled out across the globe.
 
Other stories are feats of logistics and excellent management.
 
Sarah Jensen of Barts Health NHS Trust was one of the health workers immortalised by the renowned photographer, Rankin, last year. She led the development of IT capabilities at NHS Nightingale London when the pandemic struck in March. Working overnight, she set up data networks and core digital capabilities at lightning speed, helping to give Covid patients vital care and saving hundreds of lives.
 
And in Northern Ireland women have been the source of emotional support for entire communities.
 
When Belinda O’Neill sat down to write an inspirational quote every day, she’d never have imagined that she’d inspire millions of people through the pandemic. Now, her writing has a global following of more than 1.5 million and has been credited by many as getting them through Covid-19.
 
Despite these inspirational stories, women have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
 
Women make up 39 per cent of global employment but account for 54 per cent of overall job losses, according to McKinsey. If we don’t take action now, global GDP growth could be about a trillion dollars lower in 2030 than it would be if we had gender equality.
 
This struck me because we recently worked with the Centre for Economics and Business Research to uncover a £232 billion opportunity for the UK economy by 2040 if we invest in digital technology.
 
The scope is there for us to bounce back but only if we ensure equal opportunities for a balanced, modern, and digital-first workforce.
Success in the new everyday depends on empowering people. If women are left behind, we won’t be able to grasp this incredible opportunity to improve our businesses, public services and communities.