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Saturday 30 August 2014

Women blazing a trail to the top – but there's still a way to go

Sarah Stack

Published 20/06/2014 | 02:30

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THE roles of Ireland's most influential and powerful women in business have been recognised by their peers.

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Executives, entrepreneurs, those who broke boundaries, and women who have made an impact on the public sector in Ireland or in Europe were among those celebrated at the Women's Executive Network (WXN) Leadership Summit and Awards Gala.

Three previous winners – Cpl Resources chief executive Anne Heraty; Maeve Carton, finance director with CRH; and ESB's deputy chief executive Brid Horan – were inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Almost 600 senior business people packed into Dublin's Four Seasons Hotel where they heard how the progression of women to senior positions is still too slow.

"In Europe, the most senior positions are still predominantly held by men, whether in business, politics or other fields," said WXN Founder Pamela Jeffery.

"In March this year, the European Commission noted that women only account for an average of 18pc of the members of boards of directors in the largest publicly-listed companies and 3pc of the CEOs. They recognise that, despite a concerted effort in many companies, progress is too slow to deliver the commission's target of 40pc by 2020.

"WXN events in Ireland regularly sell out because professional women want to connect with peers who share the same challenges and can offer insight into solutions," she said.

Ten executives who hold the most senior positions in Ireland's largest companies (by annual turnover and number of employees) were credited for their roles. They included Musgrave Group's Sharon Buckley; Rosaleen Burke of Boston Scientific; Google's Jennifer Kelly; and Microsoft Ireland MD Cathriona Hallahan.

Entrepreneurs awarded included Dragons' Den star Ramona Nicholas who controls the Cara Group with her husband; Judy Byrne, of cabin crew recruitment agency Crewlink Ireland; and Marian O'Gorman, of the Kilkenny Group, which recently recorded a turnover of €25.5m.

Recognised

European Commission secretary-general Catherine Day and European Commissioner Maire Geoghegan-Quinn were awarded for their impact on the public sector, while designer Orla Kiely was recognised for her contribution to the arts and culture.

But all eyes at the event were on the trailblazers – five exceptional women who have ignored boundaries and burst through barriers.

They included European Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly; United States Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power; and the Church of Ireland's first female bishop, Reverend Pat Storey.

Irish Independent

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