Celebrating International Women’s Day with a trio of women spearheading creative faculties in Griffith College

Posted 9 months ago in Arts and Culture

In celebration of International Women’s Day, we talk to Tanya Doyle, Sinéad Murphy and Deirdre Doherty who are faculty heads at Griffith College. They discuss role models, challenges, and progress being made as well as this year’s theme of Breaking The Bias.

Tanya Doyle – Head of Faculty for the Visual Arts and Screen Media

What does International Women’s Day and its theme this year #BreakingTheBias, mean to you?

International Women’s Day is essentially a global day of celebration. A day that recognises the contribution women make to our  experience and our world. The Breaking The Bias theme responds to an unconscious perception that women are considered less capable. Although this is changing and some of us have first-hand experience of this change, the contributions we make to our chosen disciples are being recognised however that this is not the case globally. International Women’s Day serves as a reminder that we must challenge biases and not take what we have for granted.

Have you seen any progress on gender equality in Higher Education?

I have recently been appointed as Head of Faculty for the Visual Arts and Screen Media in Griffith College Dublin. At our weekly Head of Faculty meeting I look around the room and I see the majority of people there are women. In my faculty were proud to have industry practitioners delivering our modules and teaching our learners. Unfortunately only one third of my teaching team are women. This reflects the absence of women in the Film & Screen industry and that’s where we have to focus our desire to make progress.

What barriers have you faced in your career and how have you overcome them?

Within the creative industries the most challenging barriers for me are the lack of value we as a society place on culture. This means that those in the cultural sector are forced to work many more hours than they are renumerated for. These challenging work schedules are even more difficult for women who have home and family commitments. I overcame these challenges by setting up my own independent production company Marmalade Films. This gives me control over my career while allowing me to work with like-minded people and pursue projects I’m interested in.

Can you tell us about a role model who has inspired you over your career?

There is a fantastic community of filmmakers in Ireland. Inspirational women are working at every stage of the production process from editors such as Cara Holmes and Iseult Howlett, Cinematographers like Eleanor Bowman and Katie McCullagh, Directors like Kim Bartley and Dearbhla Walsh and Producers such as Niamh Fagan and Katie Holly who, alongside newly emerging graduates and students all inspire me as they are all contribute to the structure and nature of our creative industries.

“Inspirational women are working at every stage of the production process”

What advice would you give to women about their careers?

Don’t undervalue yourself, your voice and your creative abilities. Hone the skills and knowledge that enable you to compete at the highest level possible within the creative industries. Join organisations such as Women in Film & Television Ireland or X-Pollinator to develop a cross-disciplinary network.

Sinéad Murphy – Photography Programme Director & Senior Lecturer

What does International Women’s Day and its theme this year #BreakingTheBias, mean to you?

To me, breaking the bias isn’t simply about gender equality or recognition, it’s about people as a whole, people recognising the humanity in everyone and embracing diversity. The idealist in me, the little girl in me would love to live in a more tolerant world without any kind of injustice. 

Have you seen any progress on gender equality in Higher Education? 

Absolutely, yes. For example, we have many heads of faculties who are women here in Griffith College and have seen more and more women take on the role as president of colleges around the country, something perhaps not seen in the past. When we form panels and committees, of course we want to make sure the best representatives are on them and that includes women being represented and having a voice. It is something we are very conscious of. 

What barriers have you faced in your career and how have you overcome them?

I have never felt prohibited in my educator role as a lecturer or programme director. I’m very much of the thinking that if you do the work, you will be recognised, gender shouldn’t be an obstacle in most careers, there may be a few exceptions but not in my field. Photography was once a male dominated industry, that changed a long time ago. I can lift a c-stand, a boom and carry any equipment necessary for a shoot just like any of my colleagues. I did have an issue when I was assisting in a studio years ago, I was asked to observe more than actually assist, it was thought that as a young woman, I wasn’t as capable as the full time assistant who was a man. I found this very frustrating. One day, the assistant called in sick, so I just went about to set up the studio for the shoot as necessary. The photographer arrived and was taken aback at first and then relented when he realised that I knew what I was doing, plus he had no choice. It was a case of don’t ask, can I help? Just get on with it, prove yourself and show what you can do. Too often, we ask for permission or apologise, I have learned that initiative is more important, it goes without saying that no matter what you are be polite and respectful. Respect is a two-way street. 

Can you tell us about a role model who has inspired you over your career? 

There have been many women in the college I have looked up to over the years, they have the right mix of a good working ethic and empathy, they work hard but are very human and approachable and supportive. I am also a huge fan of Tanya Kiang, the CEO and director of the Gallery of Photography, along with Trish Lambe the co-director of the gallery. They are a tour de force and have been running the gallery for decades, it started out in a much smaller space, I recall a visit to it when I was doing art for my leaving cert. They did a talk and tour for us and I was in awe. The gallery was the first of its kind in the country for photography. They had a vision and have worked incredibly hard to achieve what we now know as the Gallery of Photography, they helped put Ireland on the map in the visual arts and have been an incredible support to Irish photographers and especially our up and coming photographers here in Griffith. 

What advice would you give to women about their careers?

You get out of life what you put into it, if you put the work in, you will progress and opportunities will land for you, no one should expect to have anything handed to them. Be there, be seen, be polite and most importantly believe in yourself. I would also say that there is more to life than your career, making time for your physical and mental health, your family and friends and putting the effort into your life balance is as if not more important. 

“Be there, be seen, be polite and most importantly believe in yourself”

Deirdre Doherty – Head of Design Faculty

What does International Women’s Day and its theme this year #BreakingTheBias, mean to you?

I feel very privileged to be a female Head of Design Faculty.

I believe strongly, in equality and diversity and the importance of encouraging other women in the workforce and to support each other and lift each other up. I am active member of the Equality and diversity group at Griffith College and we are running an event on campus March 8, for International Woman’s Day to celebrate our learners, graduates and fellow female staff.

There is a huge underrepresentation of women at senior level in the Design sector, The National Framework for Design in Enterprise in Ireland illustrates a divide at 75:25. Female designers should be considered the same as equal to male designers.

Have you seen any progress on gender equality in Higher Education?

I think there has definitely been improvements in the Higher Education sector, since I was studying at third level.  Women in Ireland today are better educated than their male counterparts, according to the latest (CSO) data on educational participation in Ireland.

In 2018 the Irish government created 45 female-only senior academic roles within the higher education sector over three years. The move is part of a wider plan which aims to increase the level of female representation in third-level education. There are also been high profile legal cases in the university sector, were females have been discriminated against for senior academic positions, which has highlighted the need for change.

There’s a long way to go on the equality front, but it’s exciting to see women foraging ahead and taking on new roles at every level of education and business. The more young females see other women succeed in leadership roles or senior level positions, women will see the example and will believe they can too, so it becomes the norm.

What barriers have you faced in your career and how have you overcome them?

The hardest barrier that I have faced was juggling my career and being a mother of three children, especially during my children’s formative years. My first child was born 2009 and it was a struggle financially, childcare costs were astronomical. I  had two in crèche at the same time, and it was like a second mortgage. I really felt guilty not being able to spend as much time as I would have liked with my children, but I needed to work to keep my position.

Ireland is very far behind most European countries in creating more affordable and accessible childcare and the option for young families. This is the elephant in the room, more affordable and accessible childcare, would have the greatest impact in achieving workplace equality.

There are also issues with equal pay for women across all sectors. According to according to research from WorkEqual in 2021, there is gender pay gap which currently stands at 14.4% in Ireland. Not being able to close the gap completely shows, that we are still a fundamentally unequal country, but we have come a long way, especially in recent years.

“The hardest barrier that I have faced was  juggling my career and being a mother of three children, especially during my children’s formative years”

Can you tell us about a role model who has inspired you over your career?

I was very lucky to have two strong female role models growing up, my grandmother who was instrumental in the family business in Donegal. My own mother who had lived in the US for a decade, she encouraged her three daughters to be well educated and have our own careers and not be dependent on any man for money.

In the ’90’s there was a great cultural shift accross Ireland, Mary Robinson became the first Irish independent politician who served as the seventh president of Ireland. I was student in NCAD in the late 90’s during the rise of the ladette culture were young woman were a tribe that were brash, boozy and hedonistic, and determined to show that they  could do anything that  lads  could.

In terms of female Design inspiration, we all learned about Eileen Gray at College, an Irishwoman, who was very successful in her career internationally and celebrated, was one of the leading members of the modern design movement. However, her shop in fashionable Paris ‘Jean Désert’ was named after an imaginary male owner. There were many other Irish women designers and visual artists who may be forgotten, overlooked or overshadowed that now their stories are now being retold.

I love the work done by the Herstory movement, founded in 2016, a compassionate feminist movement, that believe in turning the war of the sexes into a dance to equality. They tell the stories of modern, historic, and mythic women.

 What advice would you give to women about their careers?

 I would advise any young design to be ambitious for yourself and have the self-belief that you are just as able and equal to your male colleagues. We need more female voices in every board room to increase the possible ways to change a society positively. Women make a difference to the productivity, creativity, and profitability of businesses. Always make your work visible as others have no problem taking credit for it.

There are also lots of initiatives and programmes that tackle gender diversity and bias head on. Kim McKenzie Doyle former Institute of Designer Ireland president developed ‘Why Design?’ to address gender imbalance in the industry by profiling influential female designers and to inspire female second level students to join the creative industries. I would also recommend   looking at https://www.creativeequals.org/

If you find yourself in a leadership make sure to encourage others in your network to put themselves forward and champion the female voice.

It is important to lead by example, and encourage young girls to break gender stereotypes from a young age.

A beautiful gift for any young girl, is Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, 100 bedtime stories about the life of 100 extraordinary women from the past and the present, illustrated by 60 female artists from all over the world.

I bought it for my own daughter and I tell her she can be anything in the world she wants to be.


Keep an eye out for Creative Week, the final year student showcase, taking place early June 2022. 

This year we are very excited to host an in-person exhibition of graduate work by 12 students completing the BA in Photographic Media. We launched a work in progress exhibition in January and are looking forward to seeing how the work progresses over the coming months in preparation for the final show in June as part of Creative Week. Visitors can expect to see an array of genres including; documentary, fine art, environmental and studio photography, there will be something for all tastes. Keep an eye on our Instagram page for updates and teasers, you’ll find us on: https://www.instagram.com/griffithcollegephoto/ 

We are excited to screen the BA in Film, TV and Screen Media Production graduate films in the Light House cinema Smithfield, Dublin. Stay tuned for dates and more information

Design will have over 50 graduates and will be opening on June 9th for Fashion Design, Graphic Communication Design and Interior Architecture/Interior Design. https://www.instagram.com/wearegriffithdesign/




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