Tuesday 16 January 2018

Taoiseach told to 'do better' on diversity

Marissa Carter, CEO of Cocoa Brown; Alison Cowzer, co-founder of East Coast Bakehouse; Caroline Keeling, CEO of Keelings; and moderator Bronwyn Brophy, vice president, Early Technologies EMEA, Medtronic, speaking at the 2017 Ireland’s Most Powerful Women Top 25 Celebrations at the Intercontinental Hotel in Dublin. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Marissa Carter, CEO of Cocoa Brown; Alison Cowzer, co-founder of East Coast Bakehouse; Caroline Keeling, CEO of Keelings; and moderator Bronwyn Brophy, vice president, Early Technologies EMEA, Medtronic, speaking at the 2017 Ireland’s Most Powerful Women Top 25 Celebrations at the Intercontinental Hotel in Dublin. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Susan Whelan, CEO of Leicester City Football Club chats with Dearbhail McDonald of INM
Catherine Duffy Partner and Chairman of A&L Goodbody alongside Rosaleen Burke (Right) MSVP Quality, Boston Scientific
Sherri Stevens
Iseult Ward Co-Founder and CEO of Foodcloud speaking at the 2017 Ireland's Most Powerful Women TOP 25 Celebrations at the Intercontinental Hotel in Dublin. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Sean Duffy

The founder and CEO of the WXN Network, Sherri Stevens, has called on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to improve his approach to gender diversity when it comes to key appointments.

Ms Stevens was speaking at the sixth annual WXN leadership summit which celebrates the contribution made by women in business. The event recognises the 25 most powerful women in Irish business, with this year's recipients hailing from a diverse range of industries.

Mr Varadkar faced a storm of criticism this week for appointing just seven women out of a total of 34 ministerial appointments.

Similarly, Irish companies have been moving at a snail's pace when it comes to ensuring greater equality in top positions, with female representation on Irish boards standing at just over 12pc at present, delegates at WXN heard.

"Ireland's new Taoiseach must get behind the diversity cause and put Government resources and commitment into it," Ms Stevens said.

"Ireland has no hope of improving its ratios without Government backing. At present 12pc of ISEQ board directors are women, with no available figures demonstrating LGBTQ, minority or disability representation," she added.

Rosaleen Burke, vice president of pharmaceutical giant Boston Scientific, was in agreement. Speaking on the cabinet appointments, Ms Burke said: "I think it is a huge missed opportunity. I'm fully convinced that were plenty of qualified women for cabinet roles that would have been more than capable."

Read more: Ireland enjoys a good image. Now it needs action

WXN's Stevens implored attendees to get out of their comfort zone. She said that women need to seize the initiative if they are to reach their potential within the workplace.

"You have to want it. You have to desire it. You'll never be 100pc ready - so ask for that promotion, ask for that wage increase."

A panel discussion chaired by Marguerite Sayers of ESB Networks heard that Ireland needs to invest heavily in infrastructure in the years ahead if the country is to insulate itself from potential external shocks.

Catherine Duffy, partner and chairman of A&L Goodbody, said that parish pump politics in Ireland could threaten the long-term benefit of infrastructure investments.

"Politicians tend to think of where the next vote is coming from. That is something that is a problem and we need to look at the bigger picture," she said.

Catherine Moroney, head of Business Banking at AIB, said investment in infrastructure could act as a bulwark against possible future downturns.

"Economic downturns will come. But the infrastructure will have to cope. You can't build infrastructure that is totally recession proof, but what you can do is optimise the outcomes for when they do occur," Ms Moroney said.

Winners on this year's list included: Olympian Annalise Murphy; the CEO of Leicester City Football Club, Susan Whelan; international screenwriter, actress and producer Sharon Horgan; the founder and CEO of Cocoa Brown, Marissa Carter; Chairperson of Communicorp Lucy Gaffney; Deputy Governor of the Central Bank Sharon Donnery; CEO of Beats Medical Dr Ciara Clancy; and the co-founder of FoodCloud, a not-for-profit social enterprise, Iseult Ward.

Irish Independent

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