Tuesday 25 April 2017

Planet Woman event attracts a galaxy of business world talent

Lucy Gaffney, chairwoman, Communicorp, and Louise Phelan, vice president, PayPal, raise their hands in agreement that Tánaiste Francis Fitzgerald should become the next Taoiseach at the Planet Woman Academy in the RDS. Photo: Damien Eagers
Lucy Gaffney, chairwoman, Communicorp, and Louise Phelan, vice president, PayPal, raise their hands in agreement that Tánaiste Francis Fitzgerald should become the next Taoiseach at the Planet Woman Academy in the RDS. Photo: Damien Eagers
'For every woman that gets to the top, there’s another nine that don’t,' host Norah Casey told the audience in Dublin

Sean Duffy

Some of Ireland's most innovative and powerful women shared the secrets of their success at the fifth annual Planet Woman conference at the RDS in Dublin yesterday.

Female leaders from across the business spectrum offered the audience a glimpse of what it takes to succeed at the top of the corporate ladder.

The event began with a stark statistic from host Norah Casey, who informed the crowd that "for every woman that gets to the top, there's another nine that don't".

However, attendees were soon treated to some fascinating insights into what it is that makes a successful career woman. The tone of the event prioritised the practical over the purely aspirational, with the speakers delving into illuminating detail about how best to add value to an organisation.

"Ten percent of what happens to me is what I learn. The rest is what I do about it," said Louise Phelan, PayPal vice president of Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

"I had been in an amazing company in GE. But I did need a change. I needed to get out of my comfort zone. I did 16 interviews with PayPal before I got the job."

Communicorp chairwoman Lucy Gaffney began by offering a prize of €10,000 worth of advertising on any of the company's radio stations.

Ms Gaffney told the audience of having to drop out of college, a decision that was forced upon her because she wanted to be with her husband against the wishes of her parents.

She said she left radio station 98fm having been passed over for promotion by owner Denis O'Brien. She founded her own business and noted that Mr O'Brien was the first client at her new firm.

However, she said she was relieved to eventually return to work for the Irish businessman.

"I have great respect for people who run their own business, but I found it too stressful," she said.

She said there had been no pivotal moment over the course of her career.

"Failure is not a bad thing. Success is not final and failure is not fatal. I have absolutely had people that have championed me. Denis O'Brien asked me to run a division of Digifone and I sat in front of him crying thinking I can't do it. So it helps when you have people around you that support you and believe in you."

The conversation surrounding who will be the next Taoiseach once Enda Kenny steps down has been centred around Simon Coveney and Leo Varadkar. However Tánaiste Francis Fitzgerald said she could potentially throw her hat into the ring.

Ms Fitzgerald said she was "seriously considering" running for the leadership, a statement that was met with enthusiastic applause.

Enterprise Ireland ceo Julie Sinnamon said that Brexit "has changed my life".

Ms Sinnamon went on to say that there had been a degree of denial in the aftermath of the UK vote with many people hopeful that "sense would prevail in the end".

She said that Irish businesses were now adjusting to the reality and expressed confidence that the country could weather the turbulence that is likely to ensue once Article 50 is triggered.

Irish Independent

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