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International Women’s Day

Posted 04:18PM on Thursday 05 March 2015

This Sunday, 8 March 2015, people across the world will mark International Women’s Day, a day aimed at inspiring women and celebrating their achievements. Although not an official holiday in the UK, as it is in many countries including Russia and China, events will take place up and down our country ranging from political rallies and business conferences to theatrical performances and fashion shows.

We’re marking this day by featuring two of the many inspirational women in our Organisation.

First up, we’re talking to Jo Corcoran, our Operations Manager (Acting). Jo juggles her busy role in the Organisation with life at home with her husband and 3 children.

Jo, can you tell us how you came to be Operations Director (Acting) of Positive Futures?

My first position in Positive Futures was as a Service Manager for Lakeland Family Support Service in 2007 – I was drawn to this position by the great things that I had heard about Positive Futures and by the fact that the position was part–time. Since this time, I have been fortunate enough to work in a range of different roles within the Organisation working with managers and staff from Supported Living Services, Families Matter Shared Lives Service, Wheatfield Short Break Service and Projects such as Better Together and Better Futures. This experience is invaluable in my current Acting role in terms of overseeing and managing the Operations Department.

Do you think it’s important that we have a gender diversity in leadership positions here in Northern Ireland?

Absolutely – it is so important to have women involved in key leadership roles in all aspects of society and in local communities. Such gender diversity is crucial to provide strong role models for young people and to ensure that the positive social changes for women achieved in recent history are built upon.

Did you face any struggles in the workplace as a result of being female on your journey to becoming Operations Director (Acting)?

In my previous positions as an Educational Psychologist in England I did experience some sexism from some more senior male colleagues. However, within my career in Positive Futures I have not experienced any such negativity or challenges in the workplace – only support and exceptional teamwork from senior colleagues, managers and staff to achieve real and tangible changes for people with a disability and their families.

Finally, how do you ensure that you maintain a healthy work–life balance and relax in your outside of work roles as a wife and mother?

I don’t always get this right but the things that really help me are an incredibly supportive husband, strong management support that provides flexibility and openness to find different ways to make best use of precious time. Over the past year I have tried to make more time for yoga, mindfulness and protect time for me to relax and spend time with family and good friends.

They say the hardest job of all for any woman is that of a mother – full time hours with no holidays or sick pay! Aileen Walker and her family are supported by our Bangor Family Support Service. Aileen is mum to not one, but three, children on the autistic spectrum. She tells us how Positive Futures has supported her through difficult times.

“The last few years have been tough but Positive Futures has been there to lend a supporting hand. My second child, Adam (14), has severe autism, while his brother John (16) and sister Rebecca (11) have Asperger’s. John and Rebecca have difficulty interacting with other people and often feel excluded by their peers. They feel more comfortable in conversation with adults. But Adam has virtually no communication and prefers technology to people. He likes computers, iPods and watching classic children’s TV series on YouTube. Without Positive Futures he would spend all day in his room alone. With Positive Futures’ support, he gets out and is able to go swimming and trampolining, which he loves.

We all benefited from the charity’s support when my husband Derek died from a brain tumour five years ago. As if this wasn’t enough to cope with, I was hit by a car six weeks afterwards and still feel the effects.

It’s fair to say it hasn’t been easy!

Then there are the interruptions to sleep. Adam will often go to bed at 11 o’clock at night and will be up again by 4am. It means I’m constantly busy and rarely get time to myself, but Positive Futures has made a big, big difference to us. They include John and Rebecca where possible, so it helps all of us.”

A great big thank you to Jo and Aileen for telling us their stories. If you’d like to know more about a career in Positive Futures, please click here, or to find out more about the services we offer, click here.