Thursday, March 8, 2018

University of Limerick (UL) hosted its 10th annual International Women’s Day conference today (March 8). The conference entitled #PressforProgress was supported by Northern Trust, Johnson & Johnson, Dell EMC and Bank of Ireland and was attended by members of the Mid-West business and education community.

The conference was chaired by Brid Horan, former Deputy CEO of ESB and a member of the steering committee and former chair of the 30% Club, formed in 2015 with a goal to achieve better gender balance at all levels in leading Irish businesses.

Contributors from across industry and academia discussed the topic of Women Pressing for Progress. Panellists included: Fiona De Búrca, Partner, PWC; Melíosa O'Caoimh, Senior Vice President, Corporate and Institutional Services, Managing Director - Northern Trust Fund Services (Ireland) Limited, Northern Trust, Ireland; Michelle Keating, Co Founder and Chair of Women for Election; Carol Widger, Partner, Maples and Calder; and, Bob Savage, VP for Marketing and GM, Dell EMC.

“Northern Trust is delighted to be part of this prestigious event in the University of Limerick. Within our ever growing workforce in Limerick, we employ people from across the globe and creating an inclusive and diverse workforce is one of our top priorities. As an organisation, we encourage the progression of both women and men to senior management levels. This is achieved through our internal training programme, our emphasis on professional development and our innovative mentoring circles.  It is vital that we strive to achieve a gender balance at every level throughout our organisation, and our executive management team views it as one of their most important responsibilities,” said Catherine Duffy, general manager, Northern Trust.

UL lecturer Brenda Romero, a BAFTA award-winning game designer, artist and Fulbright scholar spoke about her experience since she entered the video game industry in 1981. As a designer, she has worked on 47 games and contributed to many seminal titles, including the Wizardry and Jagged Alliance series and titles in the Ghost Recon, Dungeons & Dragons and Def Jam franchises.

Further discussion focussed on the challenges facing Women in STEM. Among those to address this were: Sarah Tully, Executive Lead for HE R&D, Bank of Ireland; UL’s Professor Edmond Magner, Dean of the Faculty of Science and Engineering; Kyran Johnson, General Manager, Janssen Sciences Ireland; and, Dr Mary Moloney, lecturer and researcher in Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering Cork Institute of Technology.

According to Marie Connolly, Head of Equality and Diversity, University of Limerick: “UL is delighted to be celebrating the 10th year of its Annual International Women’s Day Conference in collaboration with industry partners, Northern Trust, Johnson & Johnson, Bank of Ireland, Maples and DellEMC who have been partnering with us on the conference and gender projects for many years.

“UL has placed ‘gender equality’ to the fore for many years and while we have made some significant advancement with regard to the representation of women at our most senior levels over the past 10 years moving from an 8% representation of women at full professorial level in 2007 to a 31% representation today, compared to the national average of 21%, we still have a lot to do.

“As one of the first institutions in Ireland to achieve the prestigious Athena SWAN Bronze Institution Award our focus, in line with the extended charter, is now to move beyond just women in STEM towards gender equality at all senior levels.  Our aim is to promote an organisational culture that emphasises ethical practices, honesty, integrity, diversity, equity and respect for all in which people are valued and motivated to excel and achieve their full potential in a collegial and supportive environment,” Ms Connolly continued.

Also at the conference, Ian Headon, Senior Vice President of Northern Trust interviewed former Ireland rugby international David Wallace who is also Regional Business Development Manager at Bank of Ireland.

A number of second and third year UL students participating in the WiSTEM2D programme were presented with awards at the event. The WiSTEM2D: Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, Manufacturing, and Design (STEM2D) programme was established by Johnson & Johnson in 2015 with the aim of providing additional support at undergraduate level and encouraging women into exciting STEM careers.

A total of 20 students from science, technology, engineering, maths, manufacturing, and design courses were selected to participate in the WiSTEM2D Team Projects in 2017. As part of the programme, these students met at workshops where they discussed their experiences as women pursuing a career in STEM, listened to female STEM role models and engaged in projects that aimed to challenge STEM stereotypes. Each student was allocated a J&J mentor and provided with the opportunities to visit J&J manufacturing sites.

The students worked in groups to produce five videos that aimed to specifically target stereotypes in design, engineering, biology, technology and chemistry. At the IWD event, the students displayed their projects and the winning team was presented with a trophy and an additional bursary.

Kyran Johnson, General Manager, Janssen Sciences Ireland, said, “We are delighted to partner with UL on International Women’s Day to highlight the positive changes we have made in this area by addressing the gender imbalance gaps and building a diverse, professional female STEM talent pipeline. As the most diversified healthcare company in the world, we remain focused on growing, nurturing and propelling ground breaking women leaders as they transform healthcare today and the future of healthcare tomorrow".

The winners of the J&J WiStem2D team competition were:

Alice Parkes, Co. Limerick;

Wiktoria Brytan, Waterford;

Shauna O’Meara, Co. Tipperary;

Roisin Molloy, Co Galway.

University of Limerick also hosted other International Women's Day events, including the Synthesis and Solid State Pharmaceutical Centre’s launch of Women in SSPC, WiSSPC. WiSSPC is a networking and developing initiative designed to accelerate female professional development in SSPC. Chaired by Professor Michael Zaworotko, SSPC director, keynote speaker was Domhnait Gleeson of Science Foundation Ireland.