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01/08/2021

Celebrating Longford's Inspiring Women #IWD2021 - Anne-Marie Tomchak: Women shouldering the burden of Covid-19 fallout

International Women’s Day - Monday, March 8, 2021 #IWD2021 #ChooseToChallenge

Celebrating Longford's Inspiring Women #IWD2021 - Anne-Marie Tomchak: Women shouldering the burden of Covid-19 fallout

Anne-Marie Tomchak, founder of the fashion and mental health initiative ShareJoy and former Vogue digital director Picture: Joanne Warren

Drumlish native Anne-Marie Tomchak, founder of ShareJoy and former Vogue digital director, is of the opinion that the Covid-19 ‘pandemic has exposed and exacerbated inequalities and made things worse for women’.

Anne-Marie pointed out, “Women are shouldering the burden of the social and economic fallout of Covid-19. They were already more likely to be in lower paid or part time jobs before covid. Now, they are now more likely to be put on furlough or to be made redundant. 

“This is before we discuss all of the tasks that women still absorb within the home even when they have a very helpful partner. It’s having a truly detrimental effect and more support for women is needed.”

Also read: Celebrating Longford's Inspiring Women #IWD2021 - Louise Lovett: We don't have full gender equality in western world

Anne-Marie is a journalist, broadcaster and entrepreneur who has worked at the top of international news, technology and fashion media.

She has led editorial teams at British Vogue and Mashable, launched the social media investigative unit BBC Trending and founded the social enterprise ShareJoy, which sells pre-loved and sustainable fashion to raise funds for youth mental health. 

A classically trained violinist, Anne-Marie enjoys music, yoga and hiking in her spare time and she is passionate about sustainability and ethical design. 

The night before IWD, on the evening of Sunday, March 7, Anne-Marie will be taking part in a virtual event hosted by Aoibhin Garihy of BEO.

How will you mark International Women’s Day on Monday, March 8?

I’ll be doing a mix of using my voice to talk about women’s issues and gender equality but I’ll also be actively amplifying other voices. Listening and making room is a key part of allyship. So with that in mind, I’ll be sharing the mic with other women for much of the day. For example, the ShareJoy platform, will be taken over by Gxrl-Code, a collective who amplify the voices of women in the creative industries. 

The night before IWD, on the evening of Sunday, March 7, I’ll be taking part in a virtual event hosted by Aoibhin Garihy of BEO. The event gathers ‘Ireland’s inspirational ladies who know what is to challenge the system to bring about positive change’. I feel very honoured to be asked to participate alongside the likes of Eimear Considine (Munster and Irish rugby player), Geraldine Carton and Taz Kelleher (the Useless Project) and Santis O’Garro (a money mentor). It’s a free event but people can make a donation to Women’s Aid if they have the means. 

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

It’s a day to reflect on all of the things that women have achieved but also to acknowledge the inequality that still exists and the work that needs to be done. On a personal note, it’s an opportunity to express gratitude for all the women in my life. I launched ShareJoy earlier this year and it has reinforced just how brilliant Irish women are.

One of the things we regularly say at ShareJoy is: “It’s amazing what’s possible when women put their hearts, minds and wardrobes together.” We’ve been raising funds for mental health charities by getting women to open up their wardrobe doors to us and donate something they love. We’ve been bowled over by the response. 

#ChooseToChallenge is the theme for International Women’s Day - applying the theme to your own life and career, what might it mean to you and what is your view or interpretation on the theme?

The theme is all about recognising the need to call out inequality and gender bias. From what I can see, the pandemic has exposed and exacerbated those inequalities and made things worse for women. Women are shouldering the burden of the social and economic fallout of Covid-19. They were already more likely to be in lower paid or part time jobs before covid. Now, they are now more likely to be put on furlough or to be made redundant. This is before we discuss all of the tasks that women still absorb within the home even when they have a very helpful partner. It’s having a truly detrimental effect and more support for women is needed. 

According to the World Economic Forum, gender parity will not be attained for almost a century. Do you agree? Could it be attained sooner? 

It’s impossible to discuss gender parity without putting it in the context of the pandemic. Whatever the trajectory was for women before, it is now being derailed even further by coronavirus. The UN has said covid19 could wipe out 25 years of increasing gender equality and there is a genuine risk of reverting back to 1950s gender stereotypes. The data shows that women who’ve left the labour force over the past year are not returning to work and this is in part because of the care burden.  

Two ladies that have inspired you in your own life and explain why?

Maeve McMahon and Marie Sullivan, the women who co-founded ShareJoy with me. I’m inspired by both of these women every day for so many reasons. I would honestly need to do a separate interview dedicated to them in order to do them justice! 

A little on homelife in Longford and your family? And how do you keep in contact with them now?

Having lived in London for over a decade, keeping in touch on WhatsApp family groups chats and on FaceTime video calls has been the norm for me. The main change I’ve noticed is not being able to freely travel home. That’s been the most challenging part. 

Three life / career achievements you are proudest of?

  • In 2019 one of my TV documentaries (Cloud Control: Who Owns Your Data?) was added to the Irish curriculum as a learning resource for teachers and students in the Junior Cycle. 
  • Producing investigative journalism for the BBC and British Glamour that has led to meaningful changes in policy on social media platforms like Instagram in the area of illegal substances and child protection.
  • Launching a social enterprise (ShareJoy) during a pandemic. 

In your spare time, what are your hobbies? 

My hobbies have changed a little over the past year because of covid restrictions. I used to love going to yoga classes followed by a coffee or a nice meal with a friend. That’s not really possible at the moment so I’ve taken up golf. Believe it or not, golf actually has so many similarities to yoga! It’s all about the mind and remaining present.

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