Equality unlocks human potential

Antony Keane, managing director in Accenture, believes that companies that foster equality not only accelerate career advancement for women but improve career progress for men as well.

Accenture has been celebrating International Women’s Day for years. What’s on this year?

For Accenture in Ireland, IWD is our largest client event of the year. This year it will also be the largest IWD celebration in Accenture. The event will focus on how inclusion and diversity (I&D) help to drive innovation in business and more broadly in our society.

This year Accenture is also celebrating being in business in Ireland for 50 years so the event will take a look back at how I&D has evolved over this period. As always there will be a great range of speakers and performances which always make this event something special.

What strategies are in place to achieve an equal balance?

At Accenture, we believe the future workforce is an equal one, and that gender diversity is essential for an innovation-led organisation. Globally we have set ourselves bold goals to help us accelerate equality.

Today 47% of our new hires are women, and 42% of our global workforce of almost 500,000 people are women. By 2025, Accenture will achieve a gender-balanced workforce and, by 2020, women will account for 25% of managing directors globally.

To help us achieve this we offer flexible and innovative working arrangements, we encourage our women to connect through employee resource groups that help them build networks through the Accenture Women’s Network, our global online platform. We also ensure all employees have a mentor and a personalised training programme – women comprise 41% of total participants in mentoring and development programmes.

“At Accenture, we believe the future workforce is an equal one, and that gender diversity is essential for an innovation-led organisation.”

Does awareness about gender parity affect office culture?

It’s very clear to me and is supported by recent Accenture research and our ‘Getting to Equal’ studies, that creating a culture of equality unlocks human potential. If companies succeed in creating a workforce culture that fosters equality, they will not just accelerate career advancement and pay for women, they will also improve career progress for men. Sounds like a win-win to me.

“Creating a culture of equality unlocks human potential.”

How important is it for companies to implement policies aimed at closing the gender skills gap in STEM and ICT sectors?

I think it is undoubtedly important for companies to do this, however, I think the focus on this needs to start much earlier – there are simply not enough girls pursuing technology careers and learning to code from a young age. So much so that the gender gap in this space is actually getting worse. My own data point on this is when I drop my nine-year-old son to his weekly coding class and see a room filled almost entirely with boys.

Thankfully, there are a growing number of examples of technology and computing initiatives designed specifically for girls, but we really need to see more happening and more female role models flying the STEM flag.

Interview by Irene Psychari.

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/equality-unlocks-human-potential/ on

Take your financial healthcheck today

You can take a healthcheck for your business by clicking here.

Is your business in good shape financially? Take two minutes to check your financial health and learn how to improve it.


This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/take-your-financial-healthcheck-today/ on thinkbusiness

Greater gender balance a priority for Bank of Ireland

Alan Hartley is commercial director at Bank of Ireland. He tells ThinkBusiness about the bank’s commitment to being a prominent advocate for greater gender balance, not just within the company but throughout the country.
Tell us a bit of background about yourself and your career?
I qualified as a chartered accountant but most of my initial career was as an interest rate trader in the dealing rooms of firstly KBC, and then Bank of Ireland. I hung up the trading boots after nearly 20 years and moved into group treasury and then investor relations, before moving again late last year into Bank of Ireland’s retail business to run its commercial office.
How did you come to be involved in inclusion and diversity in Bank of Ireland?
I have three young daughters and have a natural interest in ensuring they get the same opportunities to achieve their goals and ambitions as I did. Andrew Keating, the group CFO, and I were discussing the topic by chance a couple of years ago and he was looking for opportunities to bring inclusion and diversity (I&D), and gender balance in particular, higher up the agenda within his division and the wider bank. I asked to help and it’s taken off from there.
What does it mean for Bank of Ireland today?
Playing a prominent leadership role in promoting greater I&D within the bank and beyond is completely aligned with our strategic ambition to be Ireland’s national champion bank. In addition, it is also completely consistent with and supportive of the bank’s commercial objectives.  
“In Ireland, research suggests that household finances are increasingly being managed by women.”
Why do we need an I&D agenda and how successful is it as achieving its goals?
I think the moral and social imperative in today’s world is clear. What’s less focussed on are the commercial opportunities

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/greater-gender-balance-a-priority-for-bank-of-ireland-international-womens-day/ on

Global design guru on the shape of things to come

Natasha Jen, an award-winning designer, educator, and a partner at Pentagram speaks to ThinkBusiness ahead of her talk on International Women’s Day.

An individualistic mentality defines design studio Pentagram in more ways than one. Operating a unique socialist business model, rather than a purely capitalist one, as well as its innovative use of graphic, verbal, digital, and spatial interventions that challenge conventional notions of media and cultural contexts, all give Pentagram unique appeal.

You have 23 partners at Pentagram working together and independently, how does that work and how important is it to the company’s success?

At Pentagram, each partner is autonomous as a design business, with different staff size, different overheads and different revenue targets. Within each office, the partners share general shared overhead: office rent, general admin, office supply, etc. Each partner would generate different revenues, depending on what they pursue and how they manage their staffing overhead. This setup, at first glance, is similar to different teams (studios) sharing an office.

What makes Pentagram unique is that the different revenues from different teams would get aggregated and redistributed equally back to each team, so it’s a socialist model. What this model does is essentially a very sophisticated check-and-balance. It first allows a partner – a designer – to define what he or she is interested in and they can shape their practice accordingly. It’s an incredibly individualistic kind of mentality. What keeps it in balance is the socialist economic model. While we pursue what we like to do, which may include things that are not profitable, we must keep in mind that our own profitability or unprofitability would affect other teams. 

This business model is really simple mathematically, but behaviourally and psychologically more nuanced than a pure capitalist model. This is beyond simple friendship, it’s a true partnership psychology and that creates a collegial culture and that culture is what keeps Pentagram going.  

How important is design in the way we live in 2019?

I think design has to be talked about specifically as opposed to generically. Generic “design” tends to end up being a feel-good word that, in the face of some of the biggest crises we face right now, feels superficial. There are real urgencies that each design field faces and there are shared crises, such as global warming, or the erasure of local culture in the age of social networks and global monopolies, or the paradox of algorithm, that it is benefiting us yet manipulating us. I don’t think we know how to answer those questions as a collective. I don’t. But that not-knowingness also sets a direction for years to come. 

What has made Pentagram so successful?

I sometimes wonder if we’re just lucky. We are not a practice informed by conventional corporate models yet we are prolific. We’ve done celebrated work and we’ve done work that went under criticism. But what’s true in the history of Pentagram is that we are a creativity-led practice, and that’s the soul of the group. 

How important is avoiding trends and designing instead for longevity?

It’s hard to say what are trends and what are timeless. Trends, such as the Chanel tweet jacket, can become timeless. I think it’s more important to think about how we respond to the challenges of our time than thinking about being trendy or timeless. That is for history to judge, 

How has technology influenced design and do you as a designer embrace it or feel you have to fight it?

Technology, similar to the word ‘design’, has specificity to it that it’s hard for me to answer generically. Digital technology pretty much has consumed everything we do and communication design, my field, is a sub-set in that totality. Technology has its way to erase uniqueness and encouraging sameness, and that’s what we work against. I don’t like to think that I am “fighting” as I have no power to set the rules in the big currents of technological developments; I tend to think that there are choices that we can make and that we don’t have to feel that we are victimized by tech. 

How important is keeping control of your work and how can you do this in a busy and large company?

There’s never a case where I can say we’re “controlling” the outcome. Design service is a messy process and clients, regardless of how much or little they have training in design, get their hands dirty in the process with us. This is not to say that we’re not the author in the final outcome, it’s that the outcome is never as pure as a fairytale. But people are people: we can be genius and we’re also flawed. For me I try to understand the people condition the best I can so the work can be conceived in the most communicative way possible. 

Interview by Olivia McGill.

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/global-design-guru-on-the-shape-of-things-to-come/ on

“I found my true core values and vowed to live by these”

Gill Carroll’s journey in business has seen many setbacks, but each time she got back up and turned things around. Here’s her remarkable story.
Everybody loves a success story – especially one that strikes just the right balance of determination, passion, values, and dedication. Gill Carroll, the proud owner of 37 West and 56 Central, two unique restaurants in Galway city, is living proof of entrepreneurship done right. On the occasion of International Women’s Day, she talks about the importance of continuous improvement, the meaning of giving to the community, and the changing culture in a male-dominated industry.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in the restaurant industry?
I grew up surrounded by business. My father is the creator and owner of Zhivago music shop in Galway city. My mother is a nurse. The combination of the two led me into the hospitality industry. I had a burning desire to add value to people’s lives.
I studied business and hotel management in GMIT. While doing my degree, I also did a certificate in human resources. From an early age, I knew I needed to have a broad education. I invest in my education every year through courses, talks, books, podcasts, masterminds and people. Anywhere I can learn, I am there.
I got my first taste of being a business owner at 26 in Edinburgh when I was approached by my boss at the time to open a Gastro Bar with him. Wow, what an experience! Two years of insane work, I made so many mistakes. The bar became successful, but I didn’t as a human. I was looking at it all the wrong way around. Partnerships are so hard. After two years and a broken heart from a breakup, I returned home to Ireland.
It took me a while to get back on track.

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/i-found-my-true-core-values-and-vowed-to-live-by-these/ on thinkbusiness

Relentless hunger pays off for beauty entrepreneur

Beauty entrepreneur Debbie Mulhall talks about starting her company from nothing, the importance of constant learning and following your passion.
“Success didn’t come without its challenges and my greatest lessons were not easily learned,” says Debbie Mulhall, owner of Urba Skin Clinic in Athlone and Dollface Brows in Tullamore. She talks to Think Business about starting a company from nothing, the importance of constant learning, hard work, and following your passion.
You are the owner of two successful beauty salons, what inspired you to get into the industry?
I lived in New York for nine years and opened my first business there when I was 26. Most people are quite surprised to learn that my first venture was an American sports bar and grill and not at all beauty or skincare related. I had my daughter in 2011 and returned home to raise her in Ireland. This was a challenging time in Ireland as we were in the depth of the recession. I was in a financial bind and realised quickly that I needed a plan and the bar and restaurant industry in Ireland didn’t quite have the same sparkle as the New York scene.
I realised it was time to follow my passion for beauty and skincare and I started very small with a very basic skill set and grew from there. I started my career freelancing with a set of brushes and a two-week makeup course certificate under my belt. I worked two bar jobs to support me while I honed my skills and got my name out there. The success came from relentless hunger and passion.
What do you consider as your biggest professional success so far?
My biggest professional success would have to be opening the door to a single treatment room in 2013, without any budget or even signage or new

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/relentless-hunger-pays-off-for-beauty-entrepreneur/ on thinkbusiness

The ingredients for building a business empire

Supermac’s co-owner Una McDonagh shares her secret formula to building Ireland’s largest and fastest-growing indigenous fast food restaurant group.
When a young Leaving Certificate student with her heart set on becoming a garda was too young to begin training, she instead started working part-time at a local fast food restaurant in Ballinasloe, County Galway. Now, over 40 years later Una McDonagh is the co-owner of Supermacs, Ireland’s largest and fastest-growing indigenous fast food group, with over 116 restaurants across the country and employing over 4,000 staff, including franchises.
She puts the success of the chain down to hard work, good personal relationships with staff and staying ahead of the curve.
“Our success has come from hard work and from the great people we have working for us,” says Una. “Some of those people are with us for 35 years. Pat (husband and Supermac’s founder) opened his first shop in Ballinasloe in June 1978, I started working there part-time two weeks after my Leaving Cert. Going back 35 years, we had a good few people at a young age working for us, going to college to get their degree and coming back to us. One of our operations managers did engineering in college, he was working with us part-time and stayed on. Now he is one of the key people in the building of the new units. There are many more staff like that, who did accountancy or business and are still with us.
“We are very hands-on; we know a lot of the staff. We would try to visit every shop at least once a month and the franchisees three or four times a year. It’s very important to be able to put faces to names. The fact that we are known to staff makes them more loyal, rather than a faceless company,” she adds.
“ It’s very

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/the-ingredients-for-building-a-business-empire/ on thinkbusiness

Jane Ohlmeyer: Universities are not changing fast enough

TCD history professor Jane Ohlmeyer says that while progress has been made to give females senior positions, universities are not changing at the pace they should be.
While workplaces increasingly recognise gender inequality as a problem to be tackled, data reveals that less than one in four professors in Irish universities are female. What is more, in their 400-year history of progress and achievement, the places that should act as beacons of excellence and merit have never had a female provost.
As we approach International Women’s Day, Jane Ohlmeyer, professor of modern history at Trinity College Dublin, founder and director of the Long Room Hub research institute, and chair of the Irish Research Council, explains why gender parity in Ireland’s higher education system can’t come fast enough.
According to the latest Higher Education Institutional Staff by Gender report (2018) published by the Higher Education Authority (HEA), in 2017 only 24% of professor posts in universities were occupied by women. This percentage is, of course, better than the staggering 8% back in 2001, and cracks are definitely showing in the glass ceiling of academia. Yet, women seem to have a hard time advancing from the entry level of their academic career, where they outnumber men (51% of lecturers are women, with this number dropping to 38% for senior lecturers) to higher-grade positions. Why is it still so difficult for universities to accept women into their most senior structures?
“The problem is partly structural and partly cultural” explains professor Ohlmeyer. “And when I say structural I just don’t think that there are enough figure women in the system. But I also think that universities are very conservative institutions and for a long time we’ve been dealing with the patriarchy and a very conservative body it is difficult for women to get into. And that’s not true

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/jane-ohlmeyer-universities-are-not-changing-fast-enough/ on

Huge gender issue still to be addressed in agri-food sector

Agri-food specialist Karen Brosnan says more needs to be done to bridge the gender gap in her sector with 50% of companies yet to address the issue.

Originally from a dairy farm in north Kerry, Karen Brosnan is a management consultant working with companies, boards and executives in the agri-food sector to plan strategically for organisation and culture change, and to implement programmes of leadership and people development.

She is the current chairperson of Gurteen College, a director of Nuffield Ireland and the former chairperson of Ceres, the women in agri-business leadership network, as well as a member of the agri-food inclusion and diversity (I&D) taskforce. Here she discusses a number of issues facing women in her field.

What can be done to get more women involved in the sector?

Research shows organisations that embrace I&D are more innovative, sustainable and successful in the longer term. In this fast-paced world, it is important to provide opportunities for both men and women to make the most of their skills and experience.

According to a study by AON last year, 50% of agri-food businesses surveyed have engaged or have started the process of engaging in I&D strategies. The other 50%, in order to compete for talent with other sectors, need to follow suit and continue to row in behind the national programmes and initiatives that are currently underway.

At a broader level, the goal of the National Women and Girls Strategy is to develop ‘an Ireland where all women enjoy equality with men and can achieve their full potential, while enjoying a safe and fulfilling life’. The strategy’s success depends on the shared engagement of women and men, in building a fairer society. This involves finding the programmes, opportunities, and people who support change and working with them.

“Research shows organisations that embrace I&D are more innovative, sustainable and successful in the longer term.”

What are the biggest challenges facing women in the sector?

While the number of women in CEO positions in the Irish agri-food sector has increased in recent times, female representation on boards and at senior management level is still low and far from the 30% base-line considered international standard.

I believe that the biggest challenge facing women in the workplace is unconscious bias. This bias comes from our life experiences and the way we have been brought up. It is hardwired into us. We bring these unconscious biases into the workplace and they influence how we make decisions.

When it comes to women in decision-making positions in the agri sector, we need to consider what are the assumptions that men and women make that might stop them recognising and utilising talent and potential. What are the assumptions that women themselves are making that might be stopping them putting themselves forward. Individuals need to become aware of their beliefs and biases and to take part in conversations around how we support women, young men, and different nationalities in different roles.

“While the number of women in CEO positions in the Irish agri-food sector has increased in recent times, female representation on boards and at senior management level is still low.”

What needs to be done to increase female representation on boards of agri-food organisations?

Studies over the last decade have consistently shown a positive correlation between women on boards and the company performance. In a global analysis of 2,400 companies conducted by Credit Suisse in 2018, organisations with at least one female board member yielded higher return on equity and higher net income growth than those that didn’t have any women on the board. Increasing numbers of women in the workforce has not translated into significantly higher numbers of women in higher and management grades. Organisational cultures, and particularly agricultural cultures, need to become increasingly open to challenging gender and other stereotypes.

Is there a lack of talent in the pipeline?

Ireland has the highest rate of college students per capita, in Europe, and with an increasing number of third level programmes in agri-food with a high female participation, it means that a shortage of talent is not the issue; the issue is graduates’ perceptions of the industry. The agri-food sector needs to be able to compete with others for top talent. There are many businesses in the industry that are struggling to attract talent from traditional sources, because they cannot compete on reputation or compensation. The future success of the agri-food industry depends on attracting diverse talent and thinking. The pace of change demands it.

“I believe that the biggest challenge facing women in the workplace is unconscious bias.”

Are there opportunities for greater planning and review on family farm businesses?

As with every self-employed person in Ireland, some businesses are ahead, but for many, it can be hard to get the balance right. Entrepreneurs need to build in thinking time, and time for review. I speak for myself when I say that it is easy to get lost in the ‘doing’ instead of thinking. One of the best opportunities I have had in the last 18 months has been to become part of an entrepreneurs synergy group. We take one morning a month to review our business goals, our challenges and outcomes for the month. This gives us a great opportunity to take an honest look at the return on investment of our time and to look at what is stopping us being better, more courageous or to question our motives. It has encouraged me to be more realistic, and it is something I think all business, including farms, could benefit from.

The rise in veganism is having a previously unanticipated effect on meat farmers – just how worrying is this?

Growing public awareness of health, climate change and animal health are driving changes in food preferences. We know that the food industry is responding by providing more plant based products, which means that this is a new reality rather than a food fad. This is a complex debate with much broader social and environmental ramifications, which will greatly impact on farmers who serve as custodians of land and animals. We need a holistic view on the impact of our food systems, as we must also consider the nutritional value of what we can grow locally versus alternatives with lower nutrition and more additives, which may be imported from across the world.

The sector needs to choose to be informed, to challenge ‘fake news’ and to avoid polarised responses. Everyone wants better health, a stable climate and the vast majority of farmers are passionate about the health of their animals and their land, so committing to collaborating on policy and outcomes is imperative.

By Stephen Larkin.

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/huge-gender-issue-still-to-be-addressed-in-agri-food-sector/ on

Thousands to celebrate International Women’s Day

Bristol Women’s Voice works to make women’s equality in Bristol a reality. ThinkBusiness talks to its chair Penny Gane about the discrimination facing women, as well as its events for International Women’s Day.
What are the issues facing women in your area?
Women’s safety is a big concern with more than 1,500 women per year suffering violence or abuse and young women afraid to walk home alone and being harassed in the street. There are many children living in poverty, often in lone parent families headed by women.
Our gender pay gap needs to improve along with maternity discrimination. We need more women on boards. Women’s health is an issue, with life expectancy being worse than the national average and increasing rates of smoking, drinking and self-harm amongst young women. There is also discrepancy in numbers of boys and girls taking up STEM subjects. All of these issues need to be addressed.
“Women’s safety is a big concern with more than 1,500 women per year suffering violence or abuse.”
What does Bristol Women’s Voice do to address these issues?
Bristol Women’s Voice runs the citywide Zero Tolerance initiative aimed at preventing gender based violence, abuse, harassment and exploitation. Companies and organisations are trained in recognising signs of abuse and how to support those suffering abuse. We run maternity rights sessions throughout the city, sessions on health inequalities, menopause workshops and we are proud to launch our menopause pack at our International Women’s Day celebration on Saturday.
We chair and support the women’s commission and its six task groups. The commission works on strategic change and the development of initiatives. The commission developed Zero Tolerance, 50-50 campaign, and our Women of Lawrence Hill project, based on ensuring that women in more deprived areas are able to benefit from new developments in the city. Our Women in Business group is

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/thousands-to-celebrate-international-womens-day/ on