Friday 20 April 2018

The most powerful Irish women in business

Irish businesswomen are running the show at the top of corporate giants Apple, PayPal and Disney

Hollywood powerbroker Hylda Queally has guided the career of Kate Winslet and Penelope Cruz
Hollywood powerbroker Hylda Queally has guided the career of Kate Winslet and Penelope Cruz

Roisin Burke

WHILE women at the top of Fortune 500 firms are scarce and the EU baulks at measures to get gender balance on boards, a group of usually deeply conservative Arab states is changing things.

Dubai and the other Arab Emirates have made it compulsory for private companies and public bodies to have women on their boards. Ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum tweeted the decision last week, saying women had "proved themselves" and should be part of decision-making.

Irish women are also proving themselves in top companies, at home and internationally. Here's our list of the most notable ones who have managed to smash a well-manicured fist through glass ceilings at home and abroad.

Best-known as the woman who bagged 1,000 jobs for Ireland, Louise Phelan runs PayPal's European operation, having been headhunted by the €3bn revenue online transactions giant six years ago. She is one of 17 children from a farming family in Co Laois.

Not a techie but a language graduate, Facebook Ireland boss Sonia Flynn is head honcho at the social network firm's international headquarters. Prior to that she was one of the original team that set up Google's Dublin operation.

Una Fox is a Disney vice-president, having joined the magic kingdom from Yahoo, where she was a director. She works on market technologies and client strategies at Disney's Burbank head office. Fox has been in California since the heady dot-com boom days, having started out working for Cisco in Paris after studying at UCC, moving to the US with KPMG.

Based in London, Clare Gilmartin has spearheaded eBay's recent transformation from a second-hand goods auction hub to a retailer of top brand names like Superdry and French Connection. The UCD commerce grad is vice-president of Ebay's marketplaces business of 50 million shoppers in Europe. She previously worked for Boston Consulting and Unilever.

Guardian of one of the world's biggest brands, Lorraine Twohill is Google's global marketing vice-president at its Silicon Valley nerve centre. The Carlow native worked for Bord Failte and then travel portal Opodo, where she was talent spotted by a Google executive and invited to the US for "a chat". Twenty-two interviews later, she was hired.

Adele Cooper is Facebook's director of global marketing and communications at its Palo Alto HQ. Born and raised in Dublin, she's a Stanford graduate with a Harvard MBA.

Kerrywoman Cora Creed is digital operations vice-president of industry 'big four', Sony Music Entertainment. From Listowel originally, she works between New York and Salzburg in Austria.

Until recently Crumlin girl Lorna Donohoe was a top executive at Playboy's €1bn international retail operation. Now she's president of LMD Branding, a luxury and entertainment licensing company that has Playboy and Conde Naste as clients.

Founder and CEO of mega- recruiter Alexander Mann, Britain-based Dubliner Rosaleen Blair runs a business that has 1,500 employees across 60 countries, taking over €85m in fee income last year. Clients include Deloitte, Nike and Microsoft.

Ex-banker Catherine Day is secretary general of the European Commission, the first woman to hold the role. The recent years of eurozone financial turmoil have brought fiscal matters increasingly into the crosshairs of her job as Europe's top civil servant.

One of Hollywood's top powerbrokers, superagent Hylda Queally has guided the career of Kate Winslet, Penelope Cruz and Marion Cotillard. The 51-year-old from Barefield, Co Clare, first started her own agency at 22 and now works for powerhouse agent CAA in Los Angeles.

The chief operating officer of Swiss financial services colossus UBS wealth management division in New York is Anita Sands. Prior to that the Co Louth girl was Royal Bank of Canada's youngest ever senior vice-president. No surprise that she's rather brainy, but perhaps her qualification is unusual in banking: she's got a PhD in atomic and molecular physics from Queen's University of Belfast.

Another of Manhattan's top female bankers is Deirdre O'Connor. The Goldman Sachs managing director from Cobh is controller of investment strategies, including investment partner hedge funds and private equity funds worth €30bn.

As manager of Microsoft's European operations Cathriona Hallahan controls an area worth €25bn to the company's commercial business. She is also general manager of its Irish arm and sits on the board of VHI.

UCD business alumna Sharon McCooey is LinkedIn's international finance director at the business networking firm's Dublin-based HQ, where its global financial operation is also located.

Computer giant Apple's Irish operation, where close to 3,000 people are employed, has Cathy Kearney at the helm. Kearney is also senior director of Apple's European operations.

Susan Dargan is head of Boston financial house State Street's global business in Ireland. More than €450bn- worth of client assets are managed out of Ireland, with over 2,000 staff employed there.

Two women hold top jobs at Ireland-based pharma multinationals, with Loretto Callaghan running Novartis Ireland and Sandra Gannon in charge at generic giant Teva's Irish business.

The most senior woman in Irish banking (not that there are many of those) is Ellvena Graham, Ulster Bank's chief operating officer, with 30 years of experience in the sector. She is also on the ESB board.

Maeve Carton is the financial brains behind €18bn revenue listed building materials firm CRH, where she has been a key player since 1988 and joined the board as finance director in 2010. She's paid well: her remuneration in 2011 came to over €1m.

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