Women, business and the Northern Ireland Chamber

By Ann McGregor MBE, Chief Executive, Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry 

Ann McGregor MBE, Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce The world is changing. Women have risen to the top of fields like business and politics all around the globe. They now play a major role in the global economy – just look at Christine
 Lagarde (Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund), Janet Yellen (Chair of the US Federal Reserve), Christina Romer (former Chair of the US President’s Council of Economic Advisors). In politics we have Theresa May (British Prime Minister), Angela Merkel (Chancellor of Germany), Jacinda Ardern, (Prime Minister of New Zealand) and many more.

Their decisions and announcements, especially in the area of international trade and business, have the power to shake the world economy and raise public awareness about the importance of overseas trade to economic development. 

Women own close to 10 million of the world’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). SMEs account for almost 80% of jobs around the world, so increasing their competitiveness boosts the likelihood of creating jobs. Sustainable economic growth and the achievement of development goals are possible only through the active participation of women.

The diversity issue is acute in business. Companies with more diverse workforces are 45% more likely to grow their market share year-on-year according to a Harvard Business Review study.  Diversity is therefore hugely important.

Gender diversity, as it relates to a work environment, means that men and women are hired at the same rate, paid equally for equal work, and promoted at the same rate. Granted, we have come a long way in the last 50 years or so, but we are still a very long way from achieving true gender diversity and equality in the workforce.

According to a report by McKinsey, women make up about 40% of the global workforce. However, only about 5% of CEOs or leaders of large corporations are women. That must change.

One of those who has made it to the top of her profession is Northern Ireland Chamber President Ellvena Graham, a leading female figure in business in Northern Ireland and beyond as the former head of the Ulster Bank, Chair of the ESB Group and also Chair of the Northern Ireland Economic Advisory Group.

Both myself as Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Ellvena are to the fore in leading the customer-focused membership organisation. With over 230 years’ commitment to the Northern Ireland economy, it is renowned as a top network for business, and with a membership of 1,200 businesses we represent over 100,000 employees.

Our members include corporates, SMEs and micro businesses with membership coming across all sectors of business from manufacturing to agri-foods, and from services to high-tech and the professions.  Our award winning team, who provide advice, support and programmes to help companies move to the next level, particularly around export plans and international trade, is committed to customer service and the commercial success of members.

Talented females leading the key teams in Northern Ireland Chamber are helping to achieve this. They include: Sandra Scannell, Head of Business Services; Valerie Gourley, Head of Business Development; Tanya Anderson, Head of SME Development; and Dawn Robertson, Export Documents Executive.

They all play a pivotal role in promoting international trade through helping companies in Northern Ireland to develop growth potential, secure export orders, expand networks, find out about scaling-up and participate in near market trade visits.

Women make an invaluable contribution to the wellbeing and success of chambers across the UK and further afield which is passed on to members and that means success all around! 





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