I had the honour of accepting an award recently at the Insider Dealmaker Awards. I was absolutely delighted that my hard work had been recognised by the local business community. The award also highlighted the dedication of my team and the great support I have enjoyed from my clients throughout the past year.
But I was the only woman nominated in my category and the first woman to have won the accolade of Dealmaker of the Year since the awards began in Northern Ireland.
So, I took the opportunity as I accepted the award to address the need to encourage more women to get involved in business. I strongly believe that improving diversity in business, whether in the board room or as advisors, will only benefit business in Northern Ireland. There are numerous surveys and statistics that clearly demonstrate that having more women in leadership roles improves profitability. For instance, a study released in 2016 by the Peterson Institute for International Economics and EY found an increase in women managers from 0 per cent to 30 per cent is associated with a 15 per cent rise in profitability. It has also been shown that more gender diversity in a firm reduces employee turnover and improves the working environment.
Of course, simply having a woman on the board isn’t magically going to increase returns. There needs to be an embracing corporate culture that supports ambition and development for all employees and offers opportunity on an equal basis. Creating a “pipeline” of female managers will help feed into the leadership role, sustaining a balance throughout the firm and hopefully the improved success highlighted by the surveys.
We already have very successful women leaders in Northern Ireland such as Sara Venning (CEO of NI Water), Janet McCollum (Chief Executive of Moy Park), Judith Totten (MD of Upstream Working Capital) and Angela McGowan, Ann McGregor and Kirsty McManus (the 3 heads of the main NI business organisations, CBI, Chamber of Commerce and IoD respectively). These women, along with many more, have consistently demonstrated ambition, success and leadership at the highest level.
But we need to encourage more women to be involved in NI business. I work regularly with start-up businesses and rarely see women leading them. Often I have been in meetings as the only woman in the room. I know that 50 per cent of the population have just as good business ideas as the rest of the population and that they are just as capable. So let’s change attitudes – encourage diversity, introduce more female mentoring and, just as importantly, educate the business community about the pure potential of more women in business.