Roseann Kelly MBE, CEO of Women in Business
For too long, Northern Ireland’s businesswomen have not been taken seriously. Absent from important tables, events and discussions, our female thinkers and doers often find opportunities just out of reach. And it’s this disconnect that can be a source of great frustration for those women who wish to make their mark.
We, as a society, have been doing a disservice to those women who have taken the plunge to set up their own enterprise, to be their own boss and attempt to make a tangible impact on the business world, while also juggling family commitment and often playing a leading role across both home and office.
It has been even more frustrating as we have watched the NI business sector play a leading, progressive role in innovation and R&D to become a pioneer in fields such as cyber security, fintech and advanced manufacturing. We have come so far in many respects as a country, an economy and as a society, but until now, women have largely been left behind. Languishing beneath a glass ceiling, their potential unfulfilled.
The tide, however, is finally beginning to turn, and we are now seeing women who have made it onto the agenda. At long last.
Last week, for instance, Women in Business played a key role at the Northern Ireland Business & Innovation Showcase, which took place at London’s QEII Centre. Myself and a fantastic panel of women – Kirsty McManus of IoD; Elaine Birchall of The SHS Group; Jackie Henry of Deloitte – were led by Madeleine Alessandri, NIO’s first female Permanent Secretary Madeleine, to discuss the role of women in business and the importance of leveraging role models to inspire the next generation of female business leaders.
This event is exactly the type of thing we need to see more often on these shores – showcasing best-in-class products and services that originate within NI and are brought before a global audience, as well as platforming our innovation and talents to underline why investing in Northern Ireland makes good business sense.
Having women on the agenda is a huge and important step for the business sector in Northern Ireland, demonstrating our progressive outlook and the value we place in diversity and gender equality. Let me say it again for emphasis: we need more of this.
We must ensure that we remain on the business agenda to support and showcase every woman in business, no matter the sector. And it is not just within the large, successful and innovative companies where standards must remain high, but for solo entrepreneurs and women running a side business – be it an Etsy page or some form of e-commerce – right through to those progressing through the ranks of local and international companies.
Here’s to staying on the agenda – to support women in business, to champion them and to showcase what they are capable of. Here’s to the future of women in business.
Image Source: Northern Ireland Office Twitter