No man is an island

There are just two female CEOs in the Northern Ireland top 100
Roseann Kelly

I RECENTLY attended a business event and there I met the usual gentleman who on realising my role within Women in Business (WIB) asked about the need, ‘sure women have taken over'. I explained that this was not the case and gave the example of just two female CEO's in the Northern Ireland top 100. I was then challenged as to what was the point of WIB if we were not making a difference.

Reflecting on this, I was very clear that yes, we do make a difference, to the many women we engage with through our events, masterclasses, conferences, awards and through our programmes. Leadership, mentoring and communications programmes support women to progress in their careers. Our female entrepreneurs are supported to start and grow their businesses, key to building a diverse business community in Northern Ireland. But the question remains - Are we making any real difference? Why are there only two female CEO's in the top 100?

The answer lies within the John Donne poem 'No man is an island'. It expresses the idea that humans under perform when isolated from others and need to be part of a community in order to thrive. No one is self-sufficient; everyone relies on others. Within business we call this collaboration or a joined-up approach.

To dial up the gender diversity agenda in Northern Ireland we need our business leaders to truly get on board and not have diversity as a tick box, they need to change the cultures of their organisations, they need to have diversity on the agenda at every board meeting. We also need a Northern Ireland childcare strategy, this is a huge issue, as child care is a key barrier for women's progression…I understand this is stuck in Stormont somewhere. We need to see diversity within the programme for Government and we need all need men, and women, to check themselves for that unconscious bias that exists within us all.

Women in Business is not an island we cannot deliver on our own, but we can help others to get on board. In September the new company, Diversity Mark NI Ltd, which we set up with the help of All State, Queen's University, Gilbert Ash and the Northern Ireland Civil Service will be a year old. It supports companies to set internal targets and rewards them with a Bronze, Silver or Gold Charter Mark. We will continue to try and support others on this island and will lobby to get the Northern Ireland childcare strategy implemented once we have our Assembly up and running.

Another area where 'No man is an island' applies is the current political stalemate. As no one person can achieve great things on their own, equally no one person can fail on their own. The current blame game being played out at the moment is hugely disappointing.

Women in Business and our many supporters will be relentless in our commitment to deliver the diverse economy and society we deserve. We invite you to be part of this on November 9 at the Virgin Media Women in Business Awards 2018 with our media partners The Irish News. We will acknowledge, reward and celebrate the outstanding business women on Northern Ireland.

:: Roseann Kelly (roseann@ is chief executive of Women in Business (, the largest and fastest growing business network for female entrepreneurs and senior women in management in Northern Ireland, with 2,500 members spread throughout all industry sectors. Follow Women in Business NI on Facebook at or on Twitter @wibni.

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