Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

International Business Women's Conference an opportunity to look beyond the glass ceiling

Margaret Canning
Margaret Canning

Most readers will be familiar with the joys and sorrows of conferences.

There are the pleasures which come from getting out of the office for a while and into a new environment, and having the opportunity to learn something about your profession or trade.

But for those who are organising them, there are the pains of complex itineraries, looking after guest speakers, and battling with PowerPoint and technology for presentations.

No doubt the International Business Women's Conference, which is taking place in the city this week and has attracted around 500 delegates, has presented the usual collection of challenges.

But the dominant sensation for organisers Women in Business NI will be delight that the conference is being held in Belfast for the first time, and that they have attracted speakers of the calibre of Carla Buzasi of Huffington Post UK and Ingrid Vanderveldt of Dell Inc.

The conference is a wonderful opportunity for women around the world to congregate and discuss the issues which they face in getting ahead in the business world.

We have discussed before how very few of Northern Ireland's top companies are led by women – in fact, just five, according to our own Top 100 Companies publication.

Yesterday, the Equality Commission pointed to research from the Women's Business Council which said that equalising men and women's participation rates in business could add more than 10% to the size of the UK economy by 2030.

Yet delegates should not shy away from tackling the issues which we all know are hamstringing the economy, whatever your gender viewpoint.

And it's in tackling those day-to-day solutions that women have the greatest ability and insight to bring, not restricting themselves to gender issues.

Belfast yesterday emerged as the 2016 venue for the European Veterinary Science conference, as our push to attract big corporate events continues.

The events we'll get even further down the line remain to be seen. And if some time, the IBWC comes back, let's hope we've a lot more than just five women in our Top 100.

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