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DUP Leader & First Minister Arlene Foster MLA has spoken about “Women in Leadership” as part of an online event for the Chief Executives Club at Queen’s University.

Mrs Foster focused on how the difficulties of leadership have changed in Northern Ireland during her life but how greater policing of social media platforms was needed.



As part of her comments, Mrs Foster said,

Background

“When I was growing up a few miles from Clones on the Fermanagh / Monaghan border in the 1970s, “women in leadership” was not a subject on most people’s lips. In those days, leadership in public life was male dominated but it was also an exceedingly dangerous place to be. Chief executives, civil servants, judges, police officers, lawyers and politicians were all defined as “legitimate targets” by those intent on murder. Being in leadership in the 1970s didn’t mean you would be criticised on social media because it didn’t exist - it meant that your name would be on a terrorist watch list in some dark place in Northern Ireland.”

Motivation

Whether it was the experience within my own family with dad or on the bus with my fellow pupils in Lisnaskea, being a woman in leadership was not my central motivation. My motivation came from, this cannot go on. I wanted the bloodshed to end. My motivation came from I love this place, it can be better, and I want to drive the change to make Northern Ireland the best it can be. My motivation came from, knowing my good neighbours and knowing that they were struggling to make a living just the same as my family.”

Women in public life quotas

. . . I don’t seek special privileges because I am a woman, I just want the same opportunities as any man. I don’t believe in quotas for women in public life, I believe in a fair crack at the job. I don’t want women in jobs because of a mathematical formula, I want them in jobs because they are the best for the role.”

Social media

. . . When anyone steps into the public square and seeks to advance their ideas, there will be debate and that is quite legitimate. It is perfectly acceptable for some else around the table to say, “I don’t like that idea and here’s why”. .

. . . The anonymity of social media gives people a sense of invincibility. I want to tackle that. There must be a verification process where the platforms at least know who really owns the account. I want the social media companies to recognise their responsibilities to women in public life. Whether it is google, Facebook, TikToK, Instagram, Twitter or SnapChat, they can’t just step back as the publisher and wash their hands of the problem. It would be the equivalent of the Government building roads without speed limits or our engineering sector making heavy plant without guard rails.”