“I never planned my life. Things just happened…and I took every opportunity that came my way!”
Globetrotter Miriam Bailey, 78, says she grew to like the sense of adventure that came with accepting work assignments in different parts of the world, so she decided “to keep at it”.
“Perhaps when this assignment finishes in 2017, it might be time to stop and smell the roses as they say!” she says smiling.
A Management Consultant in the Public Sector, Miriam is currently working on a project in Bangladesh that involves leading a group of consultants in institutionalising a results-based management system in one of the big government ministries.
Apart from Canada and Hong Kong, Miriam has had work contracts in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Barbados, Jordan, Jamaica, Philippines, South Africa, Uzbekistan…and possibly one or two others. This is her seventh time in Bangladesh.
She took a brief break from travelling in 2000 and returned to her roots to open an art gallery in Bandon. “It was great fun,” she says “but unfortunately, the ‘crash’ came and I lost my customer base overnight. It was a great experience however and I’ve absolutely no regrets!”
Born in Bandon (her mother’s hometown), Miriam’s childhood was shared between Millstreet and Bantry, where her father was stationed in the Munster and Leinster Bank (AIB today).
Miriam went to school in Dublin before going to UCC to do a Commerce degree. After teaching in the Vocational School in Skibbereen for four years, she decided it was time to see the world and ended up in Hong Kong, running a small business school. After five years, Miriam reckoned it was time to see the New World and travelled to Canada, teaching in a large secondary school in the Montreal area.
In the 1980s and early 1990s, Miriam worked in educational management in a third-level college. During those years she got an MA and PhD in public sector strategic planning at McGill University in Montreal, which led her to join the Canadian civil service in the Prairies. “In 1995, I started to work as a freelance consultant in strategic planning…and it was this move that took me to many countries in the developing world,” she explains.
“It took me some years to realise that the ability to earn one’s living was a real break through for women,” says Miriam earnestly. “Having one’s own money gives women a high level of freedom to make choices in life. I often think that the Women’s Movement has not put sufficient importance on pushing educational institutions to encouraging girls and women to take the kinds of skills and training that lead to well paid employment. There are so many new kinds of opportunities available now. Sometimes, though, we don’t know about them. So I think that women’s groups could become involved in this kind of research and job promotion.”
With great admiration for women like Mary Robinson, who “led the way for women and girls not to be afraid to fight for what they believe in, Miriam believes that “it’s time for many young women to pursue their dreams; it’s possible now.”
Would Miriam change anything in her own life if she could? “Not really. It might have been wiser to plan a little, but then I might not have grabbed the opportunities that came my way if I had decided to head in another direction. We never know what’s around the corner!”
If Miriam does ever stop to smell the roses, there is a big pile of books waiting to be read at her home in Courtmacsherry. “I think the luxury of having a fair leisure is becoming very important to me,” she says smiling. “The freedom of not having to run off to a job fills me with anticipation!”