Delivering Workplace Gender Diversity – An Economic Imperative for NI Economy

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  • Women in Business NI welcomes over 500 delegates to first International Business Women’s Conference

    The first International Business Women’s Conference to take place on the island of Ireland opened this morning (Tuesday, 13th May) at Belfast’s Waterfront Hall.  IBWC 2014: Creating a New Economy, hosted by Women in Business NI, has brought over 500 local and international delegates from across the island of Ireland, UK, Europe, USA, Canada and UAE to Belfast for three days of networking, inspirational keynote addresses, topical debate and business workshops aimed at unlocking potential, forging international connections and driving economic growth.

    A core theme of Day 1 was the ‘Business Case for improved Gender Diversity’ with attendees hearing from an expert panel that increasing gender diversity in the workplace, especially in senior decision making positions, can deliver better productivity and business performance and therefore should be considered an economic imperative for both the Northern Ireland and global economies. The debate featured panellists such as: Maurizio Mosca, European Institute for Gender Equality; Mairead Lavery, Bombardier Aerospace; Dr Anita Sands, Symantec; Dr Ruth Sealy, Cranfield University and Danish futures expert Anna Lise Kjaer.

    Today’s conference programme also featured keynote addresses from Entrepreneur in Residence with Dell INC and US media personality Ingrid Vanderveldt; Carla Busazi, Editor in Chief, Huffington Post UK; Julie Meyer, entrepreneur, investor and MD, Ariadne Capital and Ann Francke, CEO, Chartered Management Institute UK.

    A series of panel discussions also took place today, with delegates participating live in the discussion via an interactive app. One debate centred around Northern Ireland’s economic potential, led by influential members of the private and public sector such as Ellvena Graham, Head of Ulster Bank Northern Ireland; Anne Clydesdale, Director of William J Clinton Leadership Institute, Queen’s University Belfast, John McMullan, Bryson House Charitable Group, and Suzanne Wylie, Chief Executive Designate, Belfast City Council.

    Junior Minister Jonathan Bell MLA and Junior Minister Jennifer McCann MLA, Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister, showed their support for the event by delivering opening addresses to the global audience alongside Kate Marshall, Chair, Women in Business NI and Maxine Mawhinney of BBC New, conference chair. 

    IBWC 2014 also represents the first major step in an initiative driving gender diversity in Northern Ireland businesses by Women in Business NI, who recently unveiled its 30/30 Vision. Aimed at mobilising the private sector into promoting diversity in the workplace and to realise the economic benefits of doing so, Women in Business NI’ 30/30 Vision stemmed from the fact that only 5% of Northern Ireland’s Top 100 companies are led by females, whilst it believes that figure should be closer to 30%. Last month, Women in Business NI challenged the ‘Top 100’ to sign up to its 30/30 Vision through pledging to support gender diversity in their respective businesses. At today’s conference opening, Women in Business NI announced that 31 of these leading companies have already done so within the past 30 days.

    Speaking at the opening of IBWC 2014, Roseann Kelly, Chief Executive, Women in Business NI said, “We are extremely proud to have today opened our first International Business Women’s Conference and to have welcomed such a large number of delegates from across the globe to Belfast.

    “It was the vision of Women in Business NI to create a world class business event that would inspire, empower and unlock individual potential, with the aim of creating better leaders, better connections and ultimately better business.   I am certain that the relationships formed and inspiration felt through IBWC 2014 will have an economic ripple effect felt far beyond the next three days. Our hope is that IBWC 2014 will help create a new, diverse, sustainable and vibrant economy here and further afield – one that is built around inclusivity, innovation and opportunity for all.”

    IBWC 2014 continues in Belfast’s Waterfront Hall on Wednesday 14th May and will culminate with a Gala Dinner at Titanic Belfast on Wednesday evening, followed by a networking walk through Stormont Estate on Thursday.

    Tomorrow’s conference programme (Wednesday) will feature masterclasses, keynote addresses and debates involving business leaders such as Nadine Halabi of Dubai Business Women’s Council, Kathleen Mitchell, VP for Europe of Stella & Dot; Helena Morrissey CBE, founder of the Thirty Percent Club.

    IBWC 2014 is supported by Visit Belfast, Invest Northern Ireland, Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister, Department for Employment and Learning, Belfast City Council, Ulster Bank, NYSE Euronext, Queen’s University Belfast, Equality Commission NI, Enterprise Ireland. Full information is available at and a full list of companies having signed up to support Women in Business NI’s 30/30 Vision is available at

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