While attracting young women into careers in technology remains an issue globally, here in Ireland, many of our leading tech companies have senior female leaders at the helm. This is the opposite experience to the tech sector in California's Silicon Valley, where there is a lamentable dearth of top female executives.
Some would say that the technology industry has an image problem. It might seem like the preserve of the "geeky" man, which could put women off. In advance of the Dublin Web Summit, which takes place on October 30 and 31 in the RDS, 'Weekend' met six vibrant women at the very top of the technology industry in Ireland, who have reached their current roles from a variety of backgrounds and routes.
Managing Director, Microsoft Ireland
Dubliner Cathriona Hallahan (48) has worked at Microsoft Ireland since 1986, and was appointed MD in March 2013. She is married to racehorse breeder Tim Molloy and they live on a farm with their daughter, Molly (13).
"I did a secretarial course after school and joined Microsoft in 1986 as an accounts clerk. My first job was to go out and buy biscuits for the tea. The company has developed and transformed over the past 27 years. When you are young and pro-active and willing to go the extra mile, you will be recognised for that in an expanding company.
"Promotions and recognition came quite quickly in the early days, but as I went up into management and director roles, I was mainly competing with men who were quite senior and very qualified, often with experience from other companies.
"I always tell women that they need to be very open about their aspirations. I remember asking one manager why I hadn't been interviewed a few years ago for a position that one of my male colleagues got, and he said that I hadn't told him I was interested. I think there's a slight attitude difference between men and women, in that a man is more likely to apply for a job, thinking, 'I have 80pc of what they're looking for', whereas a woman will hold back, thinking, 'I haven't got 20pc of the requirements'.
"My husband works from home, so he's there to pick our daughter Molly up and do the running around, which means I don't have to worry about that side of things.
"I try not to work at weekends if I can, although I'll check my emails on the phone to see if anything is burning. I wouldn't say I have the answer to the work/life balance, but it's helped by having a really strong team.
"My management style is very open and transparent, and I qualified as an executive coach ten years ago as I'm very passionate about people. I love seeing people who have worked with me progressing in their careers, and thinking that I may have made a difference in their lives."
Newstalk, Xbox Music, Bing Travel
The next big thing
"Enterprise social networking, such as Microsoft's Yammer, where a company's internal and external use of social media is used to connect individuals who share similar business interests or activities."
CEO, Fujitsu Ireland
Tipperary woman Regina Moran is married to Jim, who is a stay-at-home dad to their three children, Conor (17), Maeve (14) and Eoghan (eight). Regina leads a team of 350 people as CEO of Fujitsu Ireland. She is in her late 40s.
"I think it's hard to have it all, and there are choices that have to be made along the way. There came a point where my husband Jim and I had to decide who was going to be more involved at home, as we knew we both couldn't have high-flying careers and a family life with three children.
"At that time, Jim was a very successful electronic engineer, but my career was a bit more advanced. It's a tough decision for any family, particularly the person who has to let go of their career, but it gave us stability. I'd like to think we're good parents and Jim is fantastic, as I don't think I could do it without the support I get from him. It's demanding for him, as the children are so involved in sports and music.
"I studied electronic engineering and, in the early days, it was very male-oriented. Later, I did an MBA because I wanted to run a company, and felt it would round out my technical background. I was thrilled being appointed CEO of Fujitsu Services in 2006 and Fujitsu Ireland in 2009, as although it's a global company, you're given a lot of autonomy to shape the destiny of your local organisation.
"Even though I love work, I enjoyed every second of my maternity leave with my children, as it's a very precious time. When you are off, the organisation moves around you, and you can't assume that you are in the same situation coming back as before you went. Organisations move on and maybe new people have joined, so you have to accept that and take it on the chin. You may need to re-establish yourself and keep believing that you have huge value to add.
"There are times when my job is very demanding, so when it's less demanding, I try to spend time with the family and not get caught up with things for the sake of it. I keep meetings as short and focused as they can be. I don't always succeed in switching off when I'm away, but it helps knowing my leadership team is first rate.
"Careers in technology are a passport to anywhere in the world. I've travelled a lot and am currently learning Japanese so that I can speak it in Tokyo. Our industry is new and exciting and diverse every day, and I get a great buzz from that. It energises me."
Global Corporate Challenge, Vimeo, JapEn (translator)
The next big thing
"Human-centric computing, ie, the collision of the physical and digital worlds using sensor technology and real-time information. For example, Fujitsu in Japan has invented a walking stick for elderly people that monitors their heart rate and pulse. It detects falls and is connected to an alert centre."
Director of Ads Policy Operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Google
After a diverse career in technology both in Ireland and abroad, Kathryn O'Donoghue, (49) has worked at Google since 2009.
She lives in Dublin with her partner, Willie Kavanagh.
"I've been working in the technology industry for a long time, and it's clear there isn't equality at the highest levels.
"When I think about the glass ceiling, there are two sides to it.
"Research shows that diverse teams in organisations will outperform non-diverse teams, so I think it's an incredible waste of talent to ignore women or minorities for whatever reason, whether that is an unconscious bias or deliberate discrimination.
"It also isn't good business sense. From managing both men and women, I feel that women are more shy at articulating their ambitions.
"My advice to them is to say yes to opportunities when they are offered, and then figure out how to make it all work afterwards. As women, we have to step up and take on the roles that are there.
"I think the skills that helped me progress include being good at solving problems and getting things done.
"I'm optimistic and like to see the bright side, even if things get really bad.
"Courage helped as well, as I went to live in countries where I didn't speak the language, and took positions where I didn't know the industry as well as the one I'd come from.
"I have lived abroad for years in Italy, Zurich and Paris, which was good fun, and that gave me the opportunity to learn new languages and explore other countries.
"I came back from Paris in 2008 for mainly personal reasons, as my partner Willie was based here, and we were commuting back and forth at weekends. I joined Google shortly after that.
"My job is busy, so it's important to recharge.
"We go to our house in the middle of Wicklow at weekends, which overlooks a lake, and go hill-walking and do some gardening.
"I like to stay involved with my family, and Willie has a lovely 22-year-old daughter, Sam, who is at college.
"I'm not very disciplined when it comes to switching off my phone.
"But I try not to answer it outside of work unless something blows up, although I keep an eye on email.
"I tend to be quite relaxed, but everyone gets stressed at times, for example, if multiple, very serious deadlines are coming at the same time.
"I find that exercising and reading are great ways to get rid of stress because when you come back, the intensity is diminished.
"The hours can be long, and when l'm working in India, I can find myself doing 16 or 17-hour days. But then you can take the time to recover from it afterwards.
"It is important to develop your confidence, be ambitious, know your value, ask for opportunities and be willing to take risks.
"And understand that there are trade-offs – it's very hard to have everything, so make those trade-offs intelligently."
Google Now, WhatsApp and Spotify
The next big thing
"That technology will be seamlessly integrated into everyday life through wearable computing, such as Google Glass and smart watches."
Vice President of Global Operations in Europe, the Middle East & Africa at PayPal
Louise Phelan is from Laois and joined PayPal in 2006. Now in her mid-40s, she lives in Dublin with her husband, Noel, and has two step-children, Andrew (18) and Heather (16).
"My dream was to be a paediatric nurse, but I decided at 22 that it wasn't the right path for me. I took a complete risk and changed my career path to study law, economics and credit management.
"To be honest, my femininity or gender hasn't impacted me at all in any role that I went for in my career. I was fortunate to be given great opportunities, and I grabbed them with both hands.
"I was lucky because I've had a good family and support mechanisms to make sure I was successful in my roles.
"There is quite a bit of travel involved in my job, because PayPal has multiple locations and our mothership is in the United States.
"Hours can be long because we work across global teams and different time zones, so it's about balance and give and take and trying to work things so it suits everybody involved as much as possible.
"I work very hard, but when I'm off, I play hard too. Noel and I make time for ourselves. I also go to my gym at half-past-six in the morning and I don't care what's happening in the world.
"It's not as easy some days if there's a fire burning somewhere, but you just have to manage. I did stints moving around to different locations throughout my career, but I never permanently moved to another country as my family here are a huge part of my life.
"I'm one of 17 children and have nine sisters, so that keeps me busy. My mum, Delia, is 88, and seeing her every Saturday is very important to me as she's been a fantastic support.
"I didn't have children and the reality is that it was a choice that I made. I don't think it was anything to do with my career, really, but was more related to the timing of where my life was and what I was doing.
"It probably made things easier in ways when it came to work, and if I could do it again would I do it differently – who knows? I have two step-children, Andrew and Heather, and they're both fantastic.
"My advice to other women is to follow your dreams and your hearts and stay true to yourself. You have to continually develop yourself and put yourself out there to network as that gives you an opportunity to showcase yourself and to understand who the other men and women in the industry are. And don't take yourself too seriously!"
PayPal, eBay, Facebook
Next big thing
"I think that soon we won't carry money and all of our transactions will be done with our phones, so gift vouchers, etc., will all be stored in the one location."
Director, Facebook Ireland
Sonia, 38, is from Kildare, and now lives in Dublin with husband Joe and eight-month-old son Leon. Having joined Facebook in 2009, she was appointed director in 2011, and is responsible for more than 400 staff in Dublin.
"I studied applied languages so don't have a technical background, and I oversee operations and the office in Dublin. Even though I work at Facebook, I also have a lot of fun with it personally, as it keeps me in contact with people from way back or those I met travelling.
"I'm married seven years to Joe, and have spent at least half of that time on the road, having lived in places like Bulgaria, India and Poland. We had to make the long-distance thing work, and Joe has always been so supportive.
"I waited a while to have a baby, as I travelled a lot for my career and put some things aside at times. I was probably as surprised as anyone that I've had a baby, to be honest, including my parents!
"I'm just back after eight months' maternity leave, and think some women, myself included, lose a little bit of confidence after having a baby and can suffer from feeling guilty.
"You also worry about re-engaging your brain and contributing at the same level when you return to work. We have a system here where you are paired up with someone who has been through the same thing, so you can talk through what's on your mind. Even though I'm a senior person on site, I've taken full advantage of that with my "buddy" Katie, and she has been great.
"Before I returned, I spent a lot of time on my calendar trying to work things out. We have a fantastic childminder who comes to the house and looks after Leon. He has a better social life than I have and goes to a music class and interactive play class.
"I would happily have worked really late before I had the baby, but now I try to make sure I'm home to see him off to bed, and then I can log back on afterwards.
"To relax, I love walking on Sandymount Strand, and my guilty pleasure is '80s and alternative music. I did a DJ course when I was four months' pregnant, as years ago I presented a show called Artbeat on Anna Livia.
"I told my husband that I wanted a non-mummy present last Christmas, so he bought me a mixing desk. Mind you, I'm probably not ready for public performances yet!"
Facebook, Airbnb, Hailo
Next big thing
"The trend around apps continues and will deepen, so people will be able to do even more through their phones."
Chief Operating Officer, Gilt Ireland
Originally from Limerick, Fidelma Healy lives in Dublin with her two children, Tim (20) and Emer (13). In her late 40s, she started with Gilt Ireland in March 2011, and was responsible for setting up its offices in Dublin and Limerick.
"The technology industry constantly changes, which I relish, as I thrive in that kind of environment. I've never been conscious of the glass ceiling because for me it was just a case of doing my job well and enjoying what I was doing.
"I'm a great believer in a good gender balance but have to admit that it can be hard to find female engineers with experience. We've agonised about it over the years and wondered if it's because if you go back ten years, there weren't as many females being encouraged to study maths. The experienced people we need may come from that time. I definitely see a mood change now and think a career in engineering could suit a lot of women as there is a lot of flexibility there.
"I'm a single mum, so I give an awful lot of my life to work and then it's about balance at home. What suffered for a long time was time for myself as my life was a cycle of work, home, and time with the children. I've got hill-walking at weekends now and prioritise it whether it's sunny or snowing because being up in the mountains and away from it all is almost like a form of meditation that helps me to switch off.
"When they were younger, I had to choose schools for my children that allowed me to drop them at 8am and collect them at 6pm or 6.30pm, which narrowed my options significantly.
"I don't think my kids suffered as a result, and while I was the one who occasionally missed things like plays, I did my very best and managed to make most things.
"I want my children to understand that a woman's career is as important as a man's and I think both of them see that."
Gilt.com, SkyPlus, Movies@Dundrum
Next big thing
"Shopping! If you watch TV and see a dress on a particular actress, you will focus on it with your phone, it will tell you where it's from and you will be able to buy it there and then."
Photos by Mark Nixon
(Irish Independent Weekend)