Women's Leadership Conference returns to inspire and celebrate

Co-hosts Susan Hayes Culleton and Ryan Hand address 500 delegates gathered in the Crowne Plaza in Belfast on Friday for the IoD's first in person Women's Leadership Conference since 2020.

CONNECTING with people and unlikely allies to unlock real change was the message from health and education advocate, Sarah Brown, as she delivered the keynote address at Friday’s Institute of Directors (IoD) Women's Leadership Conference.

The podcast host and author of ‘Behind the Black Door’, a personal memoir of her life at 10 Downing Street, was speaking at the annual conference, which was attended by more than 500 delegates.

The event at the Crowne Plaza in Belfast, marked the first face-to-face Women’s Leadership Conference since March 2020.

The charity campaigner spoke about childcare, the need to invest in youth skills, and how education could be used to tackle many global problems including child and forced marriage and the climate crisis.

Throughout all of the global and grassroots campaigns her team have been involved with, she said the three key ingredients needed to bring about effective and meaningful change were patience, organisation and teamwork.
Other speakers on the day included Dr Sinéad Kane, a double PhD doctorate and double Guinness world record holder; Baroness Floella Benjamin; Gráinne McNamara, managing director at Accenture; and Dame Kelly Holmes, Olympic, Commonwealth and European athletics champion.

All explored the main theme of the conference: ‘You cannot be what you cannot see.'

Delegates were also handed the responsibility for selecting the winner of a £4,000 pitch competition, where three fledgling entrepreneurs vied for the prize fund to boost their start-up business.

The live audience vote selected Caitrin Kincaid, founder of Cubefun, an educational game for children, as the winner.

She told the conference she will use the prize fund to develop an updated version of her product specifically for use in healthcare settings.

Speaking on Friday, the IoD’s national director in Northern Ireland, Kirsty McManus said: “After a challenging time for many in our local economy, being able to come together and celebrate the successes of our speakers, sponsors, and delegates is a timely reminder of the importance of reflecting on our own achievements and leadership ambitions.

“The calibre of our speakers was truly exceptional, and I am sure their words will resonate with our audience long after the conference has come to a close and help them introduce new ideas and opportunities within their own organisations.”

IoD’s national director in Northern Ireland, Kirsty McManus opening Friday's conference.

Lisa McLaughlin, partner at Herbert Smith Freehills, principal sponsor of the event, said: “Once again it has been a pleasure to support the IoD Women’s Leadership Conference and I’m proud of how our organisations have worked together to grow this event and broaden its reach.

“This partnership has also delivered a great many benefits to our own colleagues who have learned so much from attending over the years. It has become a standout event and one our Belfast team looks forward to participating in every year.”
Around 500 delegates gathered in the Crowne Plaza in Belfast on Friday for the IoD's first in person Women's Leadership Conference since 2020.

Other sponsors of the event included The Open University, Translink, NIE Networks, Danske Bank, KPMG, Civica and SONI, along with The Irish News, who came on board as the official media partner in 2022.

The Women’s Leadership Conference returns to Belfast on Friday March 8 2024.

Sponsors of the 2023 IoD NI Women's Leadership Conference with IoD NI regional director Kirsty McManus (centre). L-R: Dr Lynsey Quinn, The Open University; Lisa McLaughlin from headline sponsor Herbert Smith Freehills; Ashleen Feeney, KPMG; Rachel Steenson, Civica; Annette McManus from media partner, The Irish News; Cara Woods, Translink; Aine Condron, Lexus Belfast and Edel Creery, NIE Networks.