Top 25: Ireland's most powerful businesswomen revealed
The Women's Executive Network have announced their annual list of Ireland's 25 most powerful women. This year's list spans exceptional women from the fields of banking and pharma right through to an Olympic medalist and an international screenwriter/actress. Here is your complete list:
Business Leaders Award
This category recognises 11 women who hold the most senior positions in Ireland’s largest companies.
Chair of A&L Goodbody
Catherine Duffy is a partner in the banking and financial services department and head of aircraft finance. She is currently chairwoman of A&L Goodbody. An experienced banking and finance lawyer for over 20 years, her practice focuses on all aspects of banking including corporate and acquisition financing, asset financing (property, aircraft and shipping), securitisation, tax-based financing and leasing and general banking.
Catherine is described as “one of the 10 most highly regarded individuals globally in aviation finance”, by the Who’s Who of Aviation Lawyers, 2015 and 2016. She is a member and a former chairwoman of the legal advisory panel to the Aviation Working Group to the Unidroit Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment. She was a member of the first Advisory Group to the Irish Maritime Development Office set up to promote and assist the development of Irish shipping and shipping services.
Catherine is also on the board of directors of Irish Continental Group PLC and a former director on the board of Beaumont Hospital.
Global Marketing Director at Kingspan
Louise Foody is global marketing director at Kingspan, where she has worked for over 12 years since joining in the company’s first graduate recruitment programme.
Louise now manages a team of more than 40 people working across the world, with recent major projects including the global launch of Kingspan's newest Quadcore product range, the rollout of a new global digital strategy and the company’s first customer experience programme. She has worked in a range of roles for Kingspan including marketing manager of Kingspan North America, and marketing director of Kingspan Insulated Panels, the company’s biggest division.
Louise graduated with a BA in International Commerce and Italian from NUIG, followed by an MSC in Marketing Practice at UCD’s Smurfit Business School. She has also served as a non-executive director of the East Belfast Enterprise Agency.
Chairwoman Communicorp Group
Lucy Gaffney is chairwoman of Communicorp Group which owns and operates radio stations across Ireland, the UK and Europe, including national stations Today FM and Newstalk 106-108 FM. The total number of radio stations owned by Communicorp is now 21.
Lucy was a founding director of Digicel Group which launched in Jamaica in 2001. Today Digicel has extended its operations to 32 markets with over 14.5 million subscribers in the Caribbean, Central America and South Pacific regions. Previous to that she held a number of positions with Esat Telecom in Ireland.
In May 2013, Lucy was appointed to the Topaz Energy Group board and served on it until January 2016.
From March 2005 to December 2008, Lucy held the position of chairwoman of the National Action Plan against Racism in Ireland (NAPR). She has previously held directorships in Special Olympics, First Active, Campus Stadium Ireland and Tesco Ireland. She was a non-executive director of Ulster Bank from 2004-2007.
In March 2009, Lucy was appointed to the board of Independent News & Media (INM) as a non-executive director and served on the board until January 2016.
Head of Global Customer Experience, Airbnb and Site Lead, Airbnb in Dublin
Aisling Hassell is responsible for Airbnb’s customer experience operations globally. She leads a team focused on supporting every element of the guest and host experience on Airbnb. She also heads Airbnb’s Dublin office — its largest base outside of the US.
Before joining Airbnb, Aisling was director of global customer experience and web strategy at Sage. She has also held senior customer experience roles at both Vodafone and Symantec in Europe and the US.
Managing Director Open Eir
Carolan Lennon was appointed managing director of open eir (eir’s wholesale and network businesses) in September 2016. Before this, Carolan was MD for the wholesale business from June 2013. From 2010 to 2013, she was chief commercial officer of the consumer division where she had responsibility for both the fixed and mobile businesses, including the eir, eMobile and Meteor brands. In November, she was appointed to the board of AIB.
Carolan also has responsibility for eir’s Corporate Social Responsibility strategy — their relationship with Special Olympics Ireland is the longest-running CSR partnership in the country. Before joining eir in 2010, Carolan held a variety of positions in the telecommunications and technology sectors, including consumer director and marketing director at Vodafone Ireland. She is a fellow of the Marketing Institute, and holds an MBA from Trinity College, Dublin and a BSc from University College Dublin. She has also lectured in operations management at university level.
Head of Business Banking for AIB
Catherine Moroney was previously the regional director for AIB in Dublin, responsible for personal and SME business banking and the Dublin retail network.
Catherine has extensive experience working with companies including PLCs, State and SME businesses having spent 18 years in AIB corporate banking, structuring acquisition, buyout and project finance transactions across all sectors of the economy. Catherine also spent more than 10 years heading business units responsible for developing and executing strategy for both customer (personal and business) and product lines (product development, launch and marketing).
Catherine is also a non-executive director of AIB corporate finance and of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce and a former non-executive director of Aviva Health. Catherine is a fellow of the Institute Bankers, and a graduate of University College Dublin (B Comm, Banking & Finance).
President of Clinical Research Services, ICON
Dr Nuala Murphy has been president of Clinical Research Services at ICON since January 2014. Prior to this, she served as executive vice president of clinical and data operations globally. She has over 20 years’ experience within the pharmaceutical and CRO industry.
At ICON, Dr Murphy has been responsible for driving excellence in operational performance and delivering industry-leading metrics that support pharma clients to bring drugs to market faster, for the benefit of patients, on a global basis. In the last 12 months, ICON has conducted more than 500 clinical studies, involving 68,000 patients and has contributed to the development of 15 drugs that were approved in 2015.
In 2016 a joint ICON-Pfizer team was awarded clinical research team of the year at the prestigious Clinical and Research Excellence Awards for two global cardiovascular studies which involve 26,000 patients in 35 countries.
Nuala leads a leadership team of international experts, members of which have been recognised among the industry’s best.
Having graduated from Trinity College Dublin, Dr Murphy was awarded a PhD in neurochemistry, from the department of cardiovascular studies in Leeds and conducted post-doctoral research in the department of neuropharmacology at the Collège de France in Paris.
EVP & Chief Medical Officer, Perrigo
Dr Grainne Quinn is a medical doctor who qualified in Ireland in 1992. Following further training and subsequent clinical practice in the US she returned to Ireland in 2001 and joined the pharmaceutical industry as a medical adviser with Quintiles. She held various roles of increasing medical and management responsibility before moving to Elan in 2009 as head of drug safety and then chief medical officer.
Perrigo acquired Elan in 2013 and Grainne took over as head of patient safety for Perrigo at that time. Since 2015 Grainne has been chief medical officer at Perrigo. She holds the title of executive vice president and is a member of Perrigo’s executive committee, reporting directly to the ceo, in that role. She is responsible for all product safety, clinical affairs and quality compliance aspects for the company. Grainne is driven by her unwavering commitment to patient safety.
Managing Director, ESB Networks Ireland
As MD of ESB Networks, Marguerite Sayers manages a significant portion of the electricity system in the Republic of Ireland. There are 3150 staff in total in ESB Networks, which is synonymous with the fleet of yellow vans throughout the country. The total electricity network extends to 165,000km and the network serves 2.4 million customers. ESB Networks typically spends around €500m on capital projects every year to improve the resilience of the grid and to meet customer demand, with a total budget of just under €1Bn. The overall value of the network assets is €8.5bn.
Just some of the many key items completed within ESB Networks in the past year by her team include completion of negotiations on Price Review 4 with the Commission for Energy Regulation, a €3.2bn contract to cover investment and required service levels in the distribution and transmission systems over the next five years; connection of 18,000 new-demand customers in the recovering economy — up 20pc on 2015; connection of almost 500MW new renewable projects to assist in achieving Ireland’s 2020 targets — on course for 3,600MW of renewables connections by the end of 2017; completion of procurement contracts for around €800m of goods and services; more than 100 school visits by staff as part of safety programme, engineering Ireland Steps and innovation programme.
Head of Group Human Resources, Bank of Ireland
Julie Sharp joined the Bank of Ireland as head of group human resources on 14 June 2010. Julie brings diverse HR experience to the group, gained in several different companies including ING where she more recently worked. At ING, Julie held a number of senior management positions ranging from regional HR director Asia Pacific for ING Investment Management, based in Australia, to regional head of HR and management board member, ING Asia Pacific, based in Hong Kong. In this role she was responsible for 17,000 employees covering investment management, insurance and real estate. Prior to ING, Julie worked in senior HR Director roles with Arthur Anderson, Citibank and John Fairfax Media.
Julie holds an MBA in International Business Management from Charles Sturt University, having previously graduated from the University of New South Wales with aBSc, majoring in Psychology.
Ceo Leicester City Football Club
A senior executive of two market-leading companies in entirely different fields, based on opposite sides of the world, Dubliner Susan Whelan has successfully translated the commercial principles of luxury retail to the notoriously impulsive world of professional sport. Holder of a dual role at current English Premier League champions Leicester City FC and Thai duty free operator King Power, the club’s parent company, Susan has played a key part in delivering success to two businesses owned by the Srivaddhanaprabha family, to whom she has become a long-time and trusted aide.
Susan’s 20 years’ of experience in the duty-free industry includes a 17-year association with King Power, whom she joined in 1999 and with whom she has held the position of senior executive vice president since November 2010. She has specific responsibility for King Power’s purchasing and merchandising functions, and commercial development strategy for King Powers’ retail outlets. A recognised authority and regular guest speaker to the global industry, her career has included senior management appointments in locations from Russia and Pakistan, to China, the Middle East and Thailand.
She joined the City board as a representative of King Power following the Thai company’s takeover of the club in August 2010. Susan became Leicester City’s ceo in July 2011. Her experience and business acumen made her the ideal candidate to lead the execution of the owners’ long-term vision for a competitive club that could develop its brand internationally.
Promotion to the Premier League followed in May 2014, providing a global stage from which the club would continue to build its profile. After the most remarkable escape from possible relegation the Premier League has ever seen, in 2014/15, Leicester City turned to new on-pitch leadership in the shape of Claudio Ranieri — a man whose appointment as manager famously prompted Susan to appeal to the club’s supporters to trust in the board’s judgement. Ten months later, Ranieri held the Premier League trophy aloft after City had defied pre-season odds of 5000/1 to win the first top-flight title in the club’s 132-year history — a story that transcended football, even sport, to capture the imaginations of billions around the world.
This category recognises three women who own and run some of Ireland’s largest independent companies. Nominees must actively manage the daily affairs and own at least 20pc of the shares of the company if it is private or at least 5pc of the shares of a publicly-traded company.
Founder of Cocoa Brown (MCCB Beauty)
Beauty expert Marissa is an award-winning entrepreneur and ceo of the top-selling international beauty brand, Cocoa Brown Tan. Her revolutionary 1 Hour Tan is acclaimed by the beauty industry, with one bottle sold every 15 seconds.
Cocoa Brown is stocked by 10,000 retailers including Primark, Boots, Tesco, Superdrug and Ricky’s NYC. Cocoa Brown products hit shelves in November 2012 but the trading company MCCB Beauty wasn’t incorporated until June 2013. In the last three years, turnover has increased 33pc year on year.
Approx 20 new Cocoa Brown products will be added to the range in the next 12 months.
Co-founder of East Coast Bakehouse
Alison Cowzer set up a large-scale food manufacturing business based in Drogheda, Co Louth, producing a range of biscuits for the Irish, UK and European markets.
As an investor and Dragon on RTE’s Dragons’ Den series, she has made investments in a number of start-up enterprises. A co-founder of The Company of Food, Alison also works with a small group of high-growth potential Irish food SMEs, aiming to generate significant return for both the entrepreneurs and investors through equity investment, mentoring and sharing of food industry expertise. Alison is also a director of Elivar, an Irish start-up focused on the sports nutrition market.
Alison also spends time on marketing, branding and strategy projects with a number of NGOs. She is a board member of Women for Election, a non-partisan organisation that provides training, mentoring and support to women interested in getting involved in political life. She is also a director of the Ronald McDonald House charity, supporting families of seriously ill children.
Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh
Founder of Sugru
Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh is the inventor and CEO of Sugru, the world’s first mouldable glue. Jane studied at the Royal College of Art in London, where she had an idea that led to the first version of Sugru in 2003. While there, she imagined a world where this magic material existed and set out to make it a reality.
Six years and 8,000 lab hours later, the formula for Sugru was complete. Sugru launched in December 2009 and its community of users has continued to grow, with 12 million mini packs reaching people in over 170 countries and territories worldwide.
Jane is passionate about promoting a culture of creativity and resourcefulness, and sees it as an antidote to the throwaway mindset.
Sugru has received recognition from Time Magazine as one of ‘The 50 Best Inventions of 2010’ and has been dubbed the ‘21st century duct tape’ by Forbes. In 2012, Jane won the inaugural London Design Festival Design Entrepreneur award, whilst the Observer listed Sugru as one of Britain’s New Radicals: a UK business changing the world for the better. CNN recently named Jane as one of “7 tech superheroes to watch”.
Public Sector Leaders award
This category recognises four women who hold senior positions and are making an impact on the public sector in Ireland and/or Europe.
Chief State Solicitor
Eileen Creedon graduated from University College Cork with a BCL degree in 1984 and received her professional training at the Incorporated Law Society of Ireland. She was enrolled as a solicitor in 1987. She served her apprenticeship with Michael Powell & Co Solicitors and spent a further eight years in private practice with JW O’Donovan & Co Solicitors concentrating on commercial conveyancing and litigation.
She joined the Chief State Solicitor’s office in 1995 and worked in a number of areas in that office to include civil litigation, State property and criminal prosecution work.
In 2001, she joined the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. She was appointed the first deputy chief prosecution solicitor in 2007. She was subsequently appointed chief prosecution solicitor in 2010. In January 2012, following an open competition, she was appointed as the first female chief state solicitor and returned to the Chief State Solicitor’s Office.
Deputy Governor (Central Banking), Central Bank of Ireland
Sharon Donnery was appointed to the position of Deputy Governor — Central Banking with effect from March 1 2016. She is an ex-officio member of the Central Bank Commission and the Governor’s Alternate on the Governing Council of the European Central Bank (ECB). Sharon previously served as the Central Bank’s Alternate Member of the Supervisory Board of the Single Supervisory Mechanism. She is chairwoman of the SSM High Level Group on Non-Performing Loans and was also appointed Chair of the ECB Budget Committee in December 2016.
Sharon joined the Central Bank in 1996 as an economist in the Monetary Policy Division and has held a range of senior positions as head of division. From February 2013 to August 2014, she held the statutory position of registrar of Credit Unions and, from April 2014 to May 2016, was director of Credit Institutions. She was also vice-chairwoman of the European Banking Authority’s Standing Committee on Consumer Protection and Financial Innovation.
Sharon holds a BA in Economics and Politics and an MA in Economics from University College Dublin.
Director General, RTE
Dee Forbes officially took up the role of director general at RTE last July. Before this she was based in London.
Most recently she was president and managing director of Discovery Networks Northern Europe. Dee joined Discovery in 2010 as head of the UK/Ireland operation and progressively grew her responsibilities to eventually lead the Northern Europe region, which included 18 markets and territories and 27 channels, which broadcast to more than 276 million households across Northern Europe each month. Before joining Discovery, Dee led Turner Broadcasting’s business in the UK and Ireland, which consisted of seven entertainment channels, including Cartoon Network, Boomerang and TCM. She spent several years at Turner in a variety of commercial roles including general manager for the Nordic/Central and Eastern Europe and EMEA regions and head of advertising sales for Europe.
Dee is a former non-executive director of the board of the Irish Times and currently sits on the board of Munster Rugby. Dee is also a member of the Irish Advisory Board for UCD Business School. She is a founder and board member of Ireland’s first rural digital centre, the Ludgate Hub, Skibbereen. A native of Drimoleague in West Cork, she is a graduate of UCD where she studied history and politics.
Judge at the European Court of Human Rights
In July 2015, Síofra O’Leary, BCL (University College Dublin), PhD (European University Institute) was sworn in as a Judge at the European Court of Human Rights, elected in respect of Ireland.
Before this, Judge O’Leary worked for 18 years at the Court of Justice of the European Union, where she served as a ‘référendaire’ and Chef de cabinet for judges Aindrias Ó Caoimh, Fidelma Macken and Federico Mancini. She later ran part of that court’s research directorate.
Judge O’Leary has been a visiting professor at the College of Europe in Bruges for many years where she has taught LLM courses on EU law and the individual, EU Social Law and Policy as well as a judicial workshop.
She has, in recent years, been a member of the editorial board of the Common Market Law Review and is now a member of both its advisory board and the board of the Irish Centre for European Law. In 2016 she was elected an Honorary Bencher of the Honorable Society of King’s Inns.
Before joining the Court of Justice of the European Union, Siofra O’Leary was the assistant director for the Centre of European Legal Studies at the University of Cambridge and a fellow of Emmanuel College. She was previously a visiting fellow at the Faculty of Law, University College Dublin, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Cadiz, and a research associate at the Institute for Public Policy Research in London.
This category recognises three women who have ignored boundaries and burst through barriers. Each is the first or only Irish woman to achieve such a notable accomplishment.
Danni Barry is one of an elite group of female Michelin-starred chefs in the UK and only the second female chef ever in Ireland to gain a star — an accolade she won while still in her twenties.
Danni was persuaded by Michael Deane to return from England to her native Northern Ireland to take up the reins as head chef for the launch of Deanes EIPIC in Belfast. Within 18 months the restaurant had been awarded the coveted Michelin Star as well as 3 AA Rosettes and the Restaurant Association of Ireland named it ‘Best Newcomer’ in Ireland in 2015.
Most recently FOOD&WINE Magazine named Danni ‘Chef of the Year’ in Ireland in 2016 and Deanes EIPIC was hailed the Best Restaurant in Ulster. Her cooking career began in 2003 in the then Michelin-starred Deanes Restaurant in Howard Street with chef Michael Deane.
Four years later Danni went on her travels to South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and mainland Europe, garnering knowledge from the high-end restaurants in which she worked along the way before rejoining the team at Deanes. Danni has consistently driven the highest standards in her kitchen and leads her team by example, with dedication to excellence in her cooking and success for the business. From the outset, Danni has trained her staff to stretch to the excellent standards which she herself holds and she continually offers opportunities to young chefs from around the globe to come to Belfast to work alongside her.
Her style is progressive, honest, flavoursome, light, visual, balanced and modern.
Associate Professor, Trinity College Dublin; Assistant Professor, Harvard Medical School
Dr Lydia Lynch is one of the leading women working in her field. She made a major breakthrough when she discovered iNKT (invariant natural killer T-cells). The cells are to be found in fat and Lydia demonstrated that therapies to activate these cells could help manage obesity, diabetes, and metabolic disease.
Lydia did a BSc in Cell Biology and Genetics followed by a PhD in Immunology. She was subsequently recruited as an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and now lives between Boston and Dublin.
She was recently awarded a European Research Commission starting grant (€1.82m), which allowed her to set up a laboratory at Trinity College, where she is an associate professor.
Lydia’s work has been lauded by the international medical community and she has been the recipient of a number of prestigious awards including; UNESCO-L’Oréal International Women in Science award, a Marie Curie International Fellowship, and an American Diabetes Association award. Her ambition is to make a real difference in human health, particularly by finding new ways to use our immune system to fight against cancer.
Iseult Ward is an award-winning social entrepreneur. She was named as one of Forbes 30 under 30 European Class 2017 and is one of Time Magazine’s next generation leaders. Iseult is co-founder and ceo of FoodCloud, a social enterprise that connects businesses that have surplus food with local charities in their community through a software platform. To date, the equivalent of over 14 million meals has been redistributed to charities that need it. Her next big focus is scaling FoodCloud’s unique solution so that communities internationally can benefit. Iseult has a BA in Business and Economics from Trinity College Dublin.
Arts, Sport and Entertainment
This category recognises three women who have added to the recognition and reputation of Ireland through art, music, literature, broadcasting, journalism, film, the performing arts or sport.
Director of The Gate Theatre
Selina Cartmell’s inaugural programme at The GATE starts from July 2017. As a freelance artist, Selina has directed a diverse range of work from Greek tragedy and Shakespeare, to international work and contemporary Irish drama, in theatres including the Abbey Theatre, the Gate Theatre, the Lyric Theatre, Belfast, the Royal Shakespeare Company and Theatre for a New Audience, New York. Her productions have been nominated for 35 theatre awards, winning 10, including three for best director. She directed three award-winning productions for the Gate, Catastrophe, Festen and Sweeney Todd, described in the Guardian as ‘a new dawn for the theatre’. In 2004, she established Dublin-based Siren Productions, a multi-award winning company conceived to innovate the classics and create relevant and dynamic new work, integrating theatre, dance, visual arts, architecture, film and music. Most recently she made her film debut with The Date, a Short Shot Film Award funded by RTE and Filmbase.
International screenwriter and actress
Sharon Horgan is the co-lead and co-creator of the award-winning, critically-acclaimed TV series Catastrophe (Channel4/Amazon). Of her Bafta-nominated performance, The Hollywood Reporter noted “it’s Horgan’s performance that elevates the series”, and Variety commented that “Before 2015, we were unfamiliar with Horgan, but now we can’t get enough of her deft and versatile on-screen work.”
Sharon has won a Bafta in the Writer: Comedy category and was recently nominated for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series at the 68th Primetime Emmy Awards alongside Rob Delaney.
Her HBO show Divorce is currently filming its second season in New York. The comedy which she has created, written and produced — stars Sarah Jessica Parker and is set in New York.
One of the Guardian’s top 100 most powerful people in the media 2015, her BBC show Pulling was nominated for two Bafta Awards and won two British Comedy Awards.
Further to her creative work, Sharon co-owns the independent production company Merman.
Annalise Murphy is one of Ireland’s elite athletes. She first got a taste of sailing when she was five and has been on the water ever since. When she took the Under 21 World Championship title in 2009 it showed her potential to compete on the world stage. She then took the brave step to defer her degree in Natural Science in UCD after her first year to focus entirely on competitive sailing. After a heartbreaking fourth-place finish in the London 2012 Olympics, Annalise fought back to be European Champion in 2013 and then after a number of tough years on the circuit, had the ultimate redemption of taking a silver medal at Rio 2016. In-between sailing and travelling Annalise loves to bake, cycle and kite surf. She also picked up a professional chef’s qualification earlier this year at the Ballymaloe Cookery School.
This category acknowledges Women under 30 years of age who have successfully started their own business. Nominees will be assessed on their company turnover and number of people employed, plus the scalability and potential. Overall originality and innovation will also be considered.
Founder and ceo of Beats Medical
Ciara is a physiotherapist who founded Beats Medical with the aim of supporting people with Parkinson’s to live more independent lives. Beats Medical provides treatments for Parkinson’ speech, mobility and fine hand movement symptoms through technology. The company now has users in over 40 countries worldwide and is expanding its product range to treat other neurological conditions. In 2015, Ciara was named European Laureate Winner in the International Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards, and became the Winner of Google Adopt A StartUp Program. Ciara was a 2016 finalist in the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year awards. This year she was named Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur by the Local Enterprise Office and Department for Jobs initiative, becoming the first female to win the title.