Change Can be a Tsunami or a Wave You Can Surf: Women in Business NI Leadership Dinner

The 5th Annual WIBNI (Women in Business NI) Leadership Dinner was held at Ulster Bank’s head office in Belfast, overlooking Belfast City Hall, on September 16th 2014. It was attended by 40 local businesswomen and NI business leaders who received an evening of networking, excellent speakers and, not least, good food.

Kate Marshall, Chair of WIBNI, opened the event by welcoming guests. She then outlined her aim to make the format of the evening simple and informal. The first speaker was Professor Marie McHugh from the Ulster Business School. She described the evening as an excellent "opportunity to meet likeminded, kindred spirits, who are active in the business community".

Women in Business NI Leadership Dinner

Marie was followed by Ellvena Graham, Head of Ulster Bank NI, who stated she was "passionate that women should thrive in their businesses and their careers”. She said this is why Ulster Bank has a specific ‘Business Women Can’ Programme to assist. Looking at female leaders in the Top 100 companies, we have "some road to go, and I hope what we are doing will go some way to help". Ellvena then introduced the night’s keynote speaker, Brid Horan, Deputy Chief Executive of ESB, as a "leader of women in industry".

Brid was delighted to be invited by WIBNI to speak at the event. Brid said that, after 43 years’ experience working as a businesswomen, she knew the importance of having a "balance of being tough and supportive to be a good leader". Brid then focused on her experience of change whilst working in Ireland across three key areas:

  • Markets & Competition - "competition is no longer your local town: it's the world"
  • Technology - "to be effective, you need to be aware and embrace new technology"
  • Diversity - ‘women are now key customers and key decision-makers, and cannot be ignored. Ignoring 50 percent of the talent-pool is both a business issue and a talent issue.
  • Different personalities and perceptions are needed at every table’

Embrace Change

Brid finished her speech by discussing the changes she has seen over her 43-year working life. She said that change is better if you embrace it; it’s all about how you respond and react, whether "it's a tsunami or a wave you can surf".

Brid shared her experience and tips throughout the rest of the evening, moving, between courses, to different tables of business women and leaders. The enjoyable evening was brought to a close by Kate Marshall, who invited people to stay to network. And, of course, they did!



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