Enterprise Ireland hosted the International Business Women’s Conference in the Brandon Hotel, Tralee, Co Kerry on Monday 22 August 2016. The event was held in conjunction with the Rose of Tralee International Festival, the Department of the Taoiseach, and the Local Diaspora Engagement Fund 2016. It was also sponsored by AIB.

The theme of the conference was: “The Changing Face of Success”

The main focus of the conference was: “Strong Female Role Models”

Frances Fitzgerald, TD Tánaiste, Minister for Justice and Equality welcomed delegates to the conference, followed by Julie Sinnamon, CEO, Enterprise Ireland.

During the panel discussion, ‘Crossing the Digital Divide – What’s Next?, Iseult Ward, CEO and co-founder, FoodCloud and Pamela Newenham, co-founder, GirlCrew spoke about the important role technology plays in the successful operation of their businesses. Both Iseult and Pamela are examples of strong female role models who are: ‘Doing It’ in 2016.

In stark contrast Dr. Mary McAuliffe, Lecturer in Women’s/Gender History at UCD Women’s Studies presented a video montage: ‘Women of the 1916 Rising’. She shone a light on former strong female role models that were written out of history.

Even though there is a gap of 100 years between the strong female role models of 1916 and today their positive personal traits are very similar.

Madi Sharma, Founder of the Madi Group, shared her personal story from ‘Victim to Changemaker’. She spoke of how she had overcome domestic violence and had worked hard to become a successful entrepreneur. Her message to the delegates was:

“You must be the change you want to see – no excuses!”

Elysha Brennan, 2015 International Rose of Tralee, spoke of the health challenge she faced at an early age and how she dealt with it. Determined to have a positive attitude, she related the following quote:

“I ask not for a lighter burden, but for broader shoulders.”

Jenny Sanford

During the conference other strong female role models told their inspirational stories and how they ‘Did It’.  Former Roses, Arlene O’Neill, Dr Aoibhinn Ni Shuilleabhain and Dr Clare Kambamettu also shared their experiences and the lessons that they learnt along the way.

It was interesting and refreshing to see the recent emergence of female entrepreneurs who have a strong focus on social and health related issues:

  • GirlCrew, Pamela Newenham: helping females to connect socially and come together
  • FoodCloud, Iseult Ward: helping to distribute surplus food from businesses to charities
  • CoolFood, Sarah O’Connor: helping people to eat healthy, nutritious food to enhance their wellbeing

Some of the common traits and qualities that these strong female role models share are:

  • Resilience
  • Determination
  • Humility
  • Confidence
  • Bravery
  • Positive Mental Attitude
  • Hard work
  • Self-belief
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Social awareness
  • Paying it forward
  • Problem solving
  • Doing it

The conference ended with a final video montage presented by Enterprise Ireland. It showed a catalogue of other successful female entrepreneurs and their inspirational quotes.

My key takeaways from this conference were that females have come a long way from being written out of history. Strong female role models past and present are shaping the future and are now writing the history books. Female entrepreneurs are coming up through the ranks, paying it forward, sharing their stories, embracing technology and are trailblazers for those who follow. They have strong social awareness and are solution focused.

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