UCD Women in Leadership

The annual Women in Leadership Conference has already attracted some of Ireland’s top business elite, but as Keri Heath discovers, eyes are already on the year ahead.[br]LAST semester saw the beginnings of a unique event on UCD’s campus. Though the academic year has only begun, planning is already underway for next year’s Women in Leadership Conference. The event celebrates the role of women in the workforce and brings together successful individuals to discuss their experiences as, or working with, females. Speakers and panellists talk about their careers and ambitions in a one-day event open to UCD students, staff and alumni, as well as the larger Dublin community.Last February marked the first time this event was held. Eimear O’Flynn, a 2014 UCD graduate, and several of her friends developed the idea last year to have a conference that showcased women’s professional experiences. The conference was run through the Societies Council with the help of UCD alumni. O’Flynn works as event organizer for the conference. “The day is about networking, hearing from very successful women, and hopefully giving you the confidence to create your path and your career,” O’Flynn said. “If you want to get to the top, you can do it.”“I guess the whole idea was to have an event that students could come to, men or women,” O’Flynn explained. “Just something that can empower women either when they’re just recent grads or they’re students making choices on their career development.”
“If you want to get to the top, you can do it”
Next year’s conference is scheduled for February 9th. The event lasts all day for ticket holders and features speakers, a luncheon and networking sessions. In addition, the conference will feature three different panel discussions: one on women in STEM, one on women in sports, and one on women in arts and media. “There’s a 30 percent club in Ireland,” O’Flynn said, “and they’re basically trying to get 30 percent females on all boards of directors across Ireland. Ireland is still trying to break the glass ceiling.”In addition to the alumni volunteers who work on the conference, some UCD students also help to run and organize the conference throughout the year. As of yet, Women in Leadership is not a UCD society, but is simply an event run by the Societies Council. “I think in terms of continuity with these things, it’s very hard to keep events such as this as a society,” O’Flynn said. “When it’s just a once a year event, it’s hard to make it a society with a full committee.”
“Ireland is still trying to break the glass ceiling”
O’Flynn stated that another problem with forming Women in Leadership into a society is the involvement of alumni with the event. With so many located off campus, the ability to coordinate becomes more difficult. Michael Foley was co-events coordinator last year and will continue to work with Women in Leadership this year. He said that transforming the organisation into a student society is not within the short-term plans at the moment. “It’s very much kind of a single event,” Foley said. “I imagine that’s probably the way it would be for the time being. I know there might be opportunity to grow that. That would very much be up to whoever takes it on next.”Last year, the conference featured 14 speakers such as Director of Operations for Microsoft, Fiona Carey, CEO of Keelings, Caroline Keeling, and CEO of UL Hospital Group, Colette Cowan. This year, the Women in Leadership organizers hope to incorporate more panel discussions and interactive networking sessions for those at the conference.
“It’s very much a single event. I know there might be opportunity to grow that.”
About 100 students attended the Women in Leadership event last year, according to O’Flynn, as well as about 400 alumni and non-students. The conference is open to everyone – whether or not they are associated with UCD. However, O’Flynn hopes that the subsidised tickets for students, which cost only €5, will encourage more student participation.The student coordinators who are working with Women in Leadership this year also play a key role in encouraging younger audiences to attend the event. She noted that increasing student attendance, with students both from UCD and from other universities, was one of the organisation’s main goals this year. “I think the idea is we’ll just grow on last year, getting more students involved and getting more attention,” Foley said. “It looks like we’ve seen more student action, and in that regard by having more students involved, we’ll probably have a better quota.”O’Flynn noted that increasing male attendance is also a goal for this year’s conference. Speakers for this year’s conference have yet to be confirmed but Women in Leadership is already advertising to generate interest for the event. The speaker list will be announced later this semester in December, at which point student subsidised tickets will also go on sale through Eventbrite.