Skillnet Business Networks championing female leadership and diversity

Mar 10th, 2022

When it comes to championing female leadership and diversity in business, Skillnet Business Networks are working hard across a range of sectors and industries to pave the way for women through talent development. From sectors spanning digital, technology, animation, finance, law, cybersecurity, medtech and agri-food, our Networks are helping to tackle the diversity agenda and maximising female leadership and workforce participation in Ireland.  

In 2021, Skillnet Business Networks achieved close to equal gender representation in its supports, with 48% of all participants across the full spectrum of Skillnet Business Network programmes being female. As part of these supports, almost 700 women participated in dedicated female return to work upskilling and reskilling programmes, through a range of innovative enterprise-led supports. To learn more about the impact of these tailored programmes we spoke to some of the women who have participated. 

Women in leadership 

Research has shown that gender diversity produces better business outcomes. The path to women taking up leadership positions isn’t always straightforward, and Skillnet Business Networks are helping to move the dial. 

Rural Enterprise Skillnet’s Leading from Within programme with CMD Training Institute is designed by women for women in a leadership role or those aspiring to take more responsibility in the work environment. In 2021, 78 women took part in the online programme which empowers female leaders to renew focus and create the necessary changes to become more confident leaders.  

Speaking about her experiences on the programme, Paulina Kwasniak from Hotel4meetings said: “I have been in a leadership position for the last few years, but I have never had my leadership style evaluated. This programme worked like a mirror reflection: I was able to look at my leadership style from an objective perspective and see areas of improvement but also where I was actually performing well. It was deeply personal and individualistic- which provided a lot of benefit to me for the future. I would recommend this to any manager, business owner, CEO, MD, or project or team manager”.  

Similarly, Irish Medtech Skillnet recently announced their new Living Leadership programme, developed to support high potential women working in medtech and manufacturing. Invitations for expressions of interest are now open.  

Returning to work 

Returning to work after a gap can be a daunting prospect for many women. Skillnet Business Networks are supporting women through a range of innovative programmes that assist both the individual and industry.  

Developed by Taste 4 Success Skillnet and delivered in partnership with UCC Food Academy Unit, the return of the award-winning Rejuvenate Programme coincided with this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8th. Now entering its fifth year, Rejuvenate is designed to upskill women returning to the workplace and support them with the key challenges they face. These include the need to update skills and importantly, the need to rebuild their confidence and reconnect with their professional self. Over 75% of the women who have participated in the 4 previous programmes have now re-entered the workforce into paid employment.  

Discussing her experiences on the Rejuvenate in 2021, Niamh Monaghan, an IT Project Scheduler at Cognizant, said: “Prior to the course I felt I was out of the workforce for far too long and that my IT skills were probably outdated. Rejuvenate helped me to stop second-guessing my abilities. It reignited my desire to re-enter the workforce and has helped me realise my potential. Rejuvenate helped me to realise as a “returner” I can bring so much to the table, and with support provided by the Rejuvenate programme, so too can other professional women.”  

Rejuvenate was awarded the Best Diversity and Inclusion Initiative at the Irish Institute of Training & Development (IITD) National Training Awards 2020. Additionally, Food Vision 2030 highlighted the importance and value of Rejuvenate. With a national skills shortage and a push for greater gender equality, attracting women back to the workplace is an essential part of the solution for employers looking to hire skilled, professional staff.  

Championing women working in digital technology  

Much progress has been made for gender parity in Ireland’s digital technology sector, through working groups such as Technology Ireland’s Women Technology Council and multiple specialised programmes in areas such as AI (Artificial Intelligence) to diversify talent and transform the sector. 

itag Skillnet’s popular ILM certified Digital Women’s Leadership Programme has been running for several years with 98 female participants so far. It aims to increase female technologists and their visibility within the IT sector in terms of promotion and progression. The six-month programme is designed for high potential females in middle/senior management roles to help ensure long term engagement and the development of increased leadership impact. 

Recently promoted to Lead Development Manager, Tegan Bolwell, HR Locker, said: “The course helped me to gain confidence and allowed me to learn different techniques to best manage my team in a positive and effective way. The programme allows you to gain a recognised qualification and the confidence to kick start your career in management, I would highly recommend this course for all women looking to pursue a career at a management level. The trainers are fantastic, we all learned so much from them.”  

Through their innovative female-orientated programmes such as Women ReBOOT, Women Tech Start and Accelerate, Technology Ireland DIGITAL Skillnet provides upskilling, coaching and toolkits for women returning to and working in the technology sector. With their range of industry-led programmes, the Network is helping to improve workforce diversity by supporting companies such as Dell and VMware with their aims of introducing more women into the sector. Since March 2021, the Network has delivered 7 programmes with 110 female participants since March 2021, of which 88% have secured permanent employment or contracts.  

Speaking about her experiences in Women ReBOOT in July 2020, Mairead Flanagan said: “My confidence grew day to day. I learned to own my gap and not to fear the dreaded CV, LinkedIn or interviews. I became familiar with current industry practices and especially the jargon. At the end of the course, I felt energised.”  

Learn more 

If you’re interested in developing the talent of your organisation visit www.skillnetireland.ie/all-networks to learn more about our 73 Skillnet Business Networks and the innovative range of female-orientated programmes they offer. 


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