Women in Finance Ireland Awards – the winners developing female leaders

Many winners are engaging in ally and peer mentoring to create more female leaders

Yesterday’s Women in Finance Awards Ireland was a fitting close to our year of outstanding events that highlight the professional women who are diversifying their respective sectors.

The winners include female advocates, role models and male allies in Ireland’s finance industry who are working to support the next great pipeline of female leaders through mentorship, education and awareness-raising.

Employers also walked away with prizes on the night for their diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) initiatives that are opening up the finance talent pool.

Many heartfelt congratulations to this year’s winners who are working to advance women in the Irish finance sector, and a big well done to all those who were shortlisted, your impact matters.

Women in Irish finance – the problem

According to 2018 figures from Ireland’s Central Statistics Office, employment in the Irish financial sector comprised “roughly even numbers of men and women, with men accounting for 53,300 and women accounting for 53,700.”

Yet, 2021 figures show that men remain overrepresented in senior roles such as Chairperson and CEO roles compared to women, which emphasises the work needed to help women progress in the sector.

Acknowledging the individuals and employers in Ireland’s finance sector who are furthering the position of women as industry influencers is one way to show support for the cause, and is why the Women in Finance Awards Ireland matters.

This year’s awards whose headline sponsor was EY had nine judges from the finance sector that worked tirelessly to whittle down the finalists and choose the winners. These were Noelle Burke, Andrea Dermody, Tara Doyle, Mark Fenton, Sandra Healy, Rachel Hussey, Lisa Kealy, Maria Mileder and Vessy Tasheva.

WIF Ireland Awards 2021: A snapshot of winners

The Woman of the Year award, sponsored by EY, was the much-coveted award of the night.

The significance of the award deserved a high-achieving winner, who the judges described as a”trailblazer, mentor, coach and all-rounder.”

This year’s Woman of the Year has created a culture of mentorship and career coaching, including peer mentoring for professionals within the finance sector which she does alongside her day job in banking transformation.

She is a supporter of agile working and chairs learning programmes on business agility and is a proponent of agile working within her organisation. She also provides free educational videos on emotional wellbeing.

The inspirational Woman of the Year winner was: Breda McCague, Bank of Ireland Group.

She said: “I look forward to everybody collaborating together going forward, and I will continue to work until equality has arrived.”

With women lacking in leadership positions in finance, those who advocate for others in the sector deserve acknowledgement. Here, the Advocate of the Year award stands out as a headline award.

The judges explained that the winner “has truly gone out of her way to support the cause of getting more women into finance through her leadership within her organisation and the wider sector.”

The 2021 Advocate of the Year winner has also “mentored women in her own area of market liquidity risk and is developing a strong talent pipeline of women.” She is also helping colleagues from ethnically diverse backgrounds progress via a “dedicated mentoring programme,” continued the judges, who called her a “true advocate.”

The winner was: Melissa Longmore, Bank of Ireland.

Furthering female participation in the finance industry including creating more leaders requires allyship from male colleagues, and is why Male Ally of the Year is such a significant award.

The judges described this year’s winner as a proactive ally who has “actively participated in diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) initiatives by acting as a mentor in the Triple FS – the Female Fast Forward in Financial Services cross-organisation mentoring programme”, which is an “action-focused initiative developed by multiple organisations with the singular goal of increasing female leadership in the financial services industry across Ireland.”

The programme works by matching high potential women who are ready to undertake a leadership role with successful leaders from other finance organisations, and this year’s Male Ally of the Year winner was one of these leaders providing women with support.

He is also a mentor, advocate and spokesperson for programmes developed by the 30% Club, a global campaign led by Chairs and CEOs taking action to increase gender diversity at board and senior management levels.

The winner was: Danny Buckley, EY.

All the winners from the WIF Ireland Awards 2021

Accountant of the Year – Sinead Colreavy, EY

Advocate of the Year – Melissa Longmore, Bank of Ireland

Banker of the Year – Louise O’Mara, Citi

CFO of the Year – Eimear Cahalin, Vivid Edge Ltd

DEI Initiative of the Year – Ally and Advocacy Programmes, Zurich Insurance Plc

Employer of the Year (over 250 Employees) – Matheson

Finance Team of the Year (led by a woman) – Citi, Team led by Louise O’Mara

Innovator of the Year – Lisa Silver, Liberty Insurance

Legal Advisor of the Year – Donna Ager, Maples Group

Male Ally of the Year – Danny Buckley, EY  

Next Generation Leader of the Year – Ifeoluwa Adesemowo, Investec

Outstanding Contribution of the Year – Gillian Harford, 30% Club Ireland

Wealth Manager of the Year – Niamh Prendergast, Davy

Woman of the Year – Breda McCague, Bank of Ireland Group

To find out more about the Women in Finance Summit & Awards Series, click here.


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