The knowledge economy is a key area of economic growth for Northern Ireland. But how do we encourage more women to lead in this sector and others which have traditionally been very male dominated? Nuala Murphy, entrepreneur and founder of Lean In Belfast, has just returned from a regional leaders conference, hosted by speakers including Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and founder of Lean In. Nuala shares the advice she picked up.

I was honoured to be invited to represent Northern Ireland at this conference, held at Facebook HQ in Palo Alto and the prestigious Stanford University; it was an opportunity to connect and share best practice with 50 global Lean In leaders.

The line-up of speakers was exceptional, each providing a unique and fresh view on how women can help themselves and, importantly, each other, to achieve their potential and reach leadership positions.

At a session hosted by Joanna Barsch, director emeritus at McKinsey & Company, we focused on the four elements of trust leaders should have – openness, reliability, congruence and acceptance, and how they can increase effectiveness.

Joanna’s advice included that “to be a great leader we first need to be authentic” and “That being vulnerable is not a weakness, but a huge strength.”

Elements required to reach leadership positions include education, training, and mentoring and, of course, hard work but we shouldn’t underestimate the importance of our peers in getting there.

This was the message from speaker Terra Terwilliger, from the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University. Terra focused on the role of the moderator, encouraging meaningful conversations, key core values and better communication skills.

One of the conference highlights was meeting Sheryl Sandberg. She is a genuine, smart and inspirational leader. Sheryl focused on the importance of the individual in making societal changes, reminding us that “The shift to a more equal world will happen person by person – and you bring us closer with each step that you take.”

The level of empowerment and confidence that comes from engaging with a diverse range of women and cultures is phenomenal, whether in the hub of tech of Silicon Valley, or here in Belfast and so I was proud to tell fellow delegates how Lean In Belfast has grown to over 400 members in just over a year. Through a range of events, Lean In members have been able to network and connect, to share workplace issues and find solutions for the benefit of all.

After all, anything is possible when you have the right people around you.

Lean In Belfast is hosting their next meeting at the Entrepreneurial Spark Hatchery on the 29th September at 12.30 – 2pm. Delivered by Bespoke Communications this event promises will cover “The Truth About Sales” – To book your free space join Lean In Belfast here org/circle/lean-in–stand-up–belfast follow @LeanInBelfast on Twitter and join the closed group on facebook for more details.

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