Kilkenny Chamber President attends function honouring visit of Earl and Countess of Wessex

Function hears need for more women on company boards

Brian Keyes

Reporter:

Brian Keyes

Kilkenny Chamber President attends function honouring visit of  Earl and Countess of Wessex

Verona Murphy, President of Irish Road Haulage Association, Agnieszka Kepka, British Embassy, Marion Acreman, Norah Casey, Katherine Licken, Sarah Tiffin.

Marion Acreman, Centre Manager of MacDonagh Junction and President Kilkenny Chamber of Commerce was  amongst a select group of top tier female business leaders at a lunch reception  in honour of the visit to Ireland of the Earl and Countess of Wessex.

The event was a chance to discuss the challenges being faced regarding the disproportionate ratio of women on senior company boards and positions of higher management authority in Ireland and the UK. Also present in the beautiful surrounds of the British Ambassador’s Residence at Glencairn were Sinead McSweeney, MD Twitter Ireland, Norah Casey, Activist and Broadcaster,  Jean O’Sullivan Head of HR Enterprise-Ireland, Senator Catherine Ardagh, Dearbhail McDonald, Group Business Editor INM, Jillian Van Turnhout, Children & women’s Rights Advocate, Katherine Licken, Sec Gen, Dept of Culture, Heritage & Gaeltacht, Verona Murphy, President of Irish Road Haulage Association, Catherine Martin TD, Chair of Ireland’s first Parliamentary Women’s Caucus, Amanda Pullinger, CEO of 100 Women in Finance and Ruth Curran, Managing Partner, Merc.

Amongst the items discussed were the importance of mentorship and fostering of support groups. Marion spoke about instilling a sense of confidence in our children regardless of gender and rejecting  gender stereotypes to enable the next generation to maximise their potential to become great and empathetic leaders, she described how strong parenting had been the cornerstone of her own success. Support of partners and peers are paramount as women step, more and more into areas traditionally dominated by males.

Statistics have shown the stark imbalance of the genders on senior boards across Europe and the continued pay imbalance but thankfully, these gaps are narrowing. Verona Murphy stated that one of her mantras for success was “If you think you can do it, or you think you cannot do it, you will always be right” Also discussed was the importance of confidence and access to multi-disciplinary education being importance key elements for women in the workforce. Duchess of Wessex, Sophie married Prince Edward, youngest son of the Queen in 1999. She has been the chairman of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, Women's Network Forum since January 2014, a committee that was founded by her, whose goal is the advancement of gender balance and equality by influencing business leaders, inspiring the next generation and sharing best practice.

After lunch, before leaving to visit President Michael D Higgins at the Aras, Prince Edward posed the question as to whether our two female former presidents had improved the perception of the potential of Irish women as strong and competent leaders to which every person in the room agreed the presidential  terms of both Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese began a seismic shift for this country.

Marion developed her connection to the British Ambassador Robin Barnett last year when she invited him to take part in the Community aspect of the Kilkenny Famine Experience, the Ambassador returned along with Australian Ambassador Richard Andrews, to launch the free visitor tour around the Kilkenny Union Workhouse, now MacDonagh Junction Shopping Centre last November. This event also saw the unveiling of the beautiful bronze Famine sculpture created by local sculptor Ani Mollereau at the burial place of nearly 1,000 of Kilkenny’s Famine Victims.

Marion has met both Ambassadors on several occasions since as an invited guest each year to the National Famine Commemoration and again recently when Marion and Ani scooped the accolade of the Jim McNaughton Perpetual Commissioning Award at the National Allianz Business to Arts Awards.

The Kilkenny Famine Experience tour continues to attract people from across the globe back to the Kilkenny Workhouse as they retrace the steps of their ancestors. This free tour can be booked at www.kilkennyfamineexperience.com or by dropping into the customer service desk at MacDonagh Junction.