As an Irish-born woman leading marketing at a global firm headquartered in New York and a mother, I identify with many tribes. In honor of Saint Patrick’s Day, I thought it would be interesting to explore the intersection of three of them—being Irish and a woman in business. To do so, I reached out to more than a dozen Irish women in business from my network—based in either New York or Ireland—with a simple question:
What does it mean to be a modern Irish woman in business today? Are there traits that propel us forward or hold us back?
The reactions are as refreshing as these accomplished women themselves. I’m proud to share them here. In the style of a good Irish conversation, I’ll get the ball rolling with my personal reflection.
“Being an Irish woman in business means living a blend of grit, grace, and gratitude. For me it's about striving for excellence and setting that as a model and precedent for accomplishment.”
Margaret Molloy – Global Chief Marketing Officer, Siegel+Gale
“It’s an exciting time to be an Irish woman in business. There’s a cohort of us at c-suite level that have been working hard to both support, and increase the visibility of, remarkable women in business, and we’re starting to see a sea change. In the words of Kevin Spacey, 'If you become successful, it’s your responsibility to send the elevator back down.' More and more Irish women are doing just that."
Ann O’Dea – CEO, Silicon Republic, founder, Women Invent and Inspire 2015
“Few skills are as valued in Ireland as much telling a good story. Collecting and sharing stories allows me to make connections and communicate my message effectively. I never feel held back, only obliged to excel by the women that went before me who were not so lucky.”
Geraldine McGinty – Dept of Radiology, Weill Cornell Medical College Chair, ACR Commission on Economics
“There is still a strong sense of community in Ireland, and community values, which have been lost in societies that have become more individualistic. In business, this often translates to more genuine success in a networked world, a more natural ability to work well cross-functionally and the capacity to coach and lead high performing teams.”
Adele Cooper – Director in Global Accounts at Facebook
“My heritage has taught me the value of perseverance and hard work. I come from a legacy of working women and was told that nothing will be handed to me – I would have to go after everything I want to achieve in life, whether it is for work, family or leisure.”
Audrey Hendley – SVP and GM, Prospect Engagement and New Member Acquisition at American Express
“Most of the time, I don’t feel defined as being Irish – or a woman. That said, our formative years and our nationalities do govern our outlook and our modus operandi. Some of the traits among the Irish female diaspora in the business community (in the US) that I see are: Tenacity, openness, optimism, and a strong sense of community and connective tissue.”
Claire Lee – Head of Early Stage Banking at Silicon Valley Bank
“Irish women made our history. Today we have the opportunity to make Ireland a fantastic place for women in business for the next generation – the millenials – and for them to make Ireland a better place to do business.”
Marie O’Connor – Partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Country Lead of 30% Club Ireland Steering Committee, Fundraising Advisory Committee Member of the Irish Cancer Society, Board Member of the Irish Chapter of the Ireland US Council
“We are resilient visionaries, our personalities diverse and worldly. Irish business women are at a turning point, to propel we must encourage and support each other, enhancing our future and the worlds to come.”
Melissa Curry – Owner and Founder of Melissa Curry Worldwide
“In my digital world, modern Irish business women are usually members of a number of incredibly strong networks – national and international, online and in real life – and the benefits this brings along with our natural propensity for curiosity and a willingness to collaborate on projects opens many doors for us.”
Mary McKenna – Board Member of IIBN, Entrepreneur
“…it means you need to be brave, hardworking, dedicated and able to fight your corner. Being center stage in the promotion and marketing of your brand is a must. Working mothers who run their own businesses need to prioritize their time and workloads in an effective and productive manner in order to succeed in business.”
Jennifer Rothwell – Owner and Design Director at Jennifer Rothwell
"A modern Irish woman in business today is fully aware that she can aspire to be a leader in business in the knowledge that they perform or compete to the highest standards. We have many traits that lead us to success, we are passionate, charismatic, risk takers and innovators and all the while being grateful to those in our lives both at home and work."
Elaine Brennan – Managing Director, Joint Ventures at North Shore-LIJ Health System
"It’s affirming to see so many Irish women start or run companies around the globe, and it’s testament to the fact that with enough ambition and tenacity we can achieve whatever goals we set for ourselves, and maybe inspire more women to do the same."
Susan O’Brien – Founder and CEO of Smigin
“It is a great time to be a woman in business in Ireland today. After a few very difficult years there are wonderful opportunities here and a genuine understanding of the important role that woman will play in Ireland’s recovery.”
Caitriona Fottrell – Vice President at the Ireland Funds and the American Ireland Fund
“The modern Irish business woman is a leader with international networks, globally relevant skills and an ambition that dwarfs that of the generations that came before her. She has resilience and foresight but sometimes still lacks the daring to take risks, and to commit to achievements she has no ready sight of. Times are changing fast in Ireland and the ranks of strong female entrepreneurs are flourishing.”
Niamh Bushnell – CEO and Co-founder of IDIRUS, Dublin Commissioner for Startups
“We have a strong sense of equality and empathy which allows us to be a relevant voice in the room. We tend to be efficient and pragmatic, with strong multi-tasking and effective communication skills, focusing on execution of the task at hand. These qualities and our Irish wit give us an edge.”
Hilary Tuohy – Vice President, Head of Projects at Filip Technologies, Inc., President-Elect of the Executive Women’s Golf Association (EWGA) National Board
“Being a modern Irish woman in business means we are judged on our skillset and not on our gender, Ireland's reputation has afforded us an equal footing in the business world. Our education and ethics are assumed from the offset meaning we can get straight down to business.”
Mary Rodgers – Founder and CEO of Stateside Solutions
I’d love to hear from you. Tweet me your thoughts on the subject: @MargaretMolloy.
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to friends of Ireland everywhere.