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Stormont Tedx Factor: What did these 10 women have to say about faith, politics, business and, er, life?

Northern Ireland’s most inspirational females take to the Stormont stage to deliver a wide-raging and moving series of talks in an intimate setting

By John Mulgrew

Published 30/05/2015

Deirdre Heenan, Sarah Travers, Emma Pengelly and Cathy Martin at the Tedx Event at Stormont Castle in Belfast
Deirdre Heenan, Sarah Travers, Emma Pengelly and Cathy Martin at the Tedx Event at Stormont Castle in Belfast
Paula Hilman
Minister Cheryl Meban
Dr Elizabeth Welty
Cheylene Murphy
Orlaith Hendron
Heather McCormick
Katie Richardson

Some of Northern Ireland's most inspirational women have taken to the stage at Stormont Castle as part of TedxStormont.

Speaking at the event, women from across a raft of backgrounds - including business, religion, education and policing - took to the stage at Stormont Castle to deliver inspiring and moving talks on a range of issues.

That included a fight for women's equality, faith in Northern Ireland, as well as business and politics.

And as changeable as the weather itself, the high-profile women addressed any number of ideas with over 60 guests in the intimate setting of the Glass House at Stormont Castle. The theme of the event, which was hosted by broadcaster Sarah Travers, was 'Momentum. Moving Forward. Gaining Speed. Building Traction'.

Speakers included Deirdre Heenan, Ulster University pro-vice chancellor of communication and provost of Coleraine and Magee, and PSNI Superintendent Paula Hilman.

The curator of the event, Eva Grosman, described the day as "a great opportunity to listen to individuals at the top of their professions to speak out in a political setting".

Among those turning out in the sun-kissed building was PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton, who heard a rousing talk from his colleague Ms Hilman about her almost 30 years in policing.

It was a day for big ideas and looking forward, with some strong emotions along the way. And the event was finished off with music from Belfast DJ Venus.

For more information visit www.tedxstormont.com

Superintendent  Paula Hilman MBE

Senior PSNI officer with almost 30 years in the organisation.

Ms Hilman addressed a number of issues and focused on the key topic of the day, momentum.

She spoke about “balance, personal and organisational momentum” as well as benefiting from the “positivity” in finishing her first marathon.

“Momentum is about balance. Balance enables momentum, and that’s the idea I want to share and develop.

“I’m looking at balance, personal, team and organisational momentum

“Most important today, who are you helping to shape? I also get the self belief in the responsibilities of what I do today.” She talked about the progression of policing here, joining the force when just 4% were women.

Minister Cheryl Meban

Ms Meban is a minister of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.

She took to the podium to speak about her faith, change in the Church and her strong drive in life.

“I learned to apply my faith, as a child, in my journey — God would steer my life, the way he steered my bike.

“Sometimes if you go slowly, you fall off. I wanted everyone to share in the freedom I had.

“I wanted the Church to wise up, and move closer to our founder.

“I’m a contrary being. I don’t want to be driven, I want to drive. I want to be behind the wheel.

“Momentum for me is this, real moment, to be you, and me, and we – who we really are designed to be.”

Professor Deirdre Heenan

Ulster University pro-vice chancellor of communication and provost of Coleraine and Magee.

She discussed the move towards a “knowledge economy” using intelligence and information and innovation to “push us forward”.

“Steam was behind modern industrial civilisation. It took place at an unprecedented period of creation and innovation. The effective use of intelligence, is what will create, innovate and push us forward. The knowledge economy should also be driven by steam.”

And she also said STEM subjects were “missing a trick” with the arts also needed to help build and fuel growth.

“Employers will tell us they want people who are problem solvers, who work in collaboration, who can imagine.

“Many of the jobs in the future don’t yet exist. We need to bridge the gap between science and art.”

Dr Elizabeth Welty

Works in peace and conflict studies and has opened two yoga studios.

Dr Welty spoke about the “power of human beings” and how to “project your energy into the world”.

She also got those gathered to get involved through breathing exercises.

“As agents of transformation, it’s more than just the plan.

“We need to create the condition in others to receive that knowledge

“We are all powerful human beings... silently our energy speaks our thoughts, and our intention and energy ripples out.

“... use your might for right, use this incredible tool that is you.

“We can use this opportunity to grow. Create space in your diary, in your life, and in your head. It’s a discipline.

Emma Pengelly

Adviser to the First Minister.

Ms Pengelly spoke about her time up on the Hill, and the concept of achieving an ideal and hypothetical world where we have the “happiest healthiest people” with full employment. 

And she also talked about the disillusionment among the public in regards to our politicians.

“I have had the great privilege over the course of the last eight years to work with the Government of Northern Ireland.

“In addition I have had the opportunity to meet hundreds of politicians, ambassadors and thousands of people from civic society.

“Every one of those people, every party, member of society would all love to have that (perfect) record of achievement.

“We are all in this together and we have to find solutions together.

“We have an unprecedented opportunity for the first time, at the touch of button, we can access research all over the world... this is an incredible opportunity that wasn’t there five or 10 years ago...

“We need to do it together.”

Cathy Martin

Owner of PR firm CMPR.

Ms Martin spoke about “moving forward” after her tragic stillborn birth and briefly about the recent separation from her husband.

“I won’t spend the next 10 minutes man bashing or ex-husband bashing,” she said.

“I want to avoid women as a special interest group, we are 50% of the population.

“We make strides in the western world to show we can achieve anything men can do.”

She talked about the daily difficulties women still face.

“The struggle isn’t just physical, but also emotional.”

And she said: “I’m not all for ‘momentum, moving forward, gaining speed and building traction’, I’m for slowing down and reflecting on life. I think I’m better for it, too.

Orlaith Hendron

Political and social activist, and poet.

Ms Hendron began with a poem before addressing those gathered and told a story about her childhood, wearing dresses, inequality, and that Northern Ireland “is the only place where gay and lesbian people can’t get married”.

“I remember when I was 10, having played football, then being told I could not play in the boys’ team. I was gutted,” she said.

“This line between boys and girls – boys take risks and girls stand still. How are we to take that step forward?

“There are two ways – support and being proactive, and not necessarily in that order. For many it can seem like the hardest thing people can do.

“So many women have paved the way for us, all we have to do is follow them. Walk down the street with your head held high.”

Cheylene  Murphy

Musician with her band Wonder Villians and is a published songwriter.

Ms Murphy talked about her love for music, setting up her band and a lack of women working in the industry.

“When I was 16, I started up a band with my best friend. The band grew and we found the other amazing members, and became Wonder Villains.

“Doing Wonder Villains as a job hasn’t felt like work, and didn’t feel like a plan. But when the four of us got in a room, there was this ball of energy.

“It was the combination of our personalities and ideas. Really connecting with people is magical... but you are told you have to be selfish in life.”

Heather McCormick

Works in sales and marketing for Accenture.

Ms McCormick spoke to those gathered about a move towards “selfless leadership” in both business and other walks of life.

“I want to talk about selfless leadership. Why? With more and more women moving into positions of power and influence, this is the kind of leader we are looking for – selfless leaders.

“We are tired of self-obsessed celebrities... we are bored of bankers. It will be selfless leaders who succeed in this generation.

“It won’t look like more money, success for selfless leaders looks like lives transformed.

“From boardrooms to classrooms, playgrounds to parliament... we are looking for selfless leaders.

“First thing, they know themselves. They know the things that make their heart sing. Second, they give themselves for that thing they believe in... they serve selflessly.”

Katie Richardson

Musician, composer and actress.

Ms Richardson spoke about body image and the dangers of the beauty game

“We live in a world where we can’t win in the beauty game,” she told the audience.

“Artists like Adele have websites which point out how fat she is.”

She talked about the “false portrayal of beauty” in advertising, the music industry and Hollywood, and a prevalence of eating disorders – including her own.

“It probably peaked last year, in what I called the dark months.

“It’s still difficult to talk about. For me, a lot stems from fear. That people might see me differently... that they won’t understand.”

And she said making the issue “less taboo” was key in helping to fix things and move forward.

“I believe this all begins with kindness.”

Belfast Telegraph

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