After the huge success of last year’s event, we are thrilled to be delivering another International Women’s Day conference, in partnership with Ulster University, bringing together a wide and diverse community of inspiring women to celebrate together. 𝐂𝐞𝐥𝐞𝐛𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐇𝐄𝐑 promises to be an inspirational, inclusive, fun packed day, celebrating the impact and success of women right across all sectors of our community.

Conference Host: Caroline O’Neill

Also, back by popular demand is the fabulous Caroline O’Neill. Wife to Gerard and mum to Pearse, Darragh and Tess, Caroline began her business journey with DIGG Childrenswear in County Tyrone, where she founded ‘Digg for Success’.

‘Digg Mama’ has over 200k followers, from across the world. ‘Digg For Success’ helps business owners grow their brand and business online. The Digg Podcast is broadcast to thousands of listeners each week, has a quarter of a million downloads and has recently hit the top ten in The Irish Business Podcast Charts.‘Digg Deep For Kids’ is a registered charity founded by Caroline and has bought over £1m of essentials for families living in poverty. In 2019, along with business partner Niamh Taylor (CEO Digital Twenty-Four) she founded the Northern Ireland Social Media Awards.

Caroline very much believes in open and honest conversation, both in business and in life, to help empower people to make changes for the better. Caroline will be shining the spotlight and facilitating engaging conversations with our fabulous keynote speakers to help motivate us all, to pursue our goals and aspirations, without bias or barriers.

Keynote Speaker: Ailbhe Keane

Our empowering keynote speaker is Ailbhe Keane, who established the hugely successful Izzy Wheels with her sister Izzy (a company specialising in turning wheelchair covers into fashion statements).

Barbie, Disney, Hello Kitty – all collaborations of this Irish powerhouse of loving Galway sisters. Their success has equated to over 30 national awards, including the EU Prize for Women Innovators, a BBC documentary, partnerships with the world’s most famous brands, and a place on the prestigious Forbes, 30 under 30 list!

Ailbhe will be sharing the girls’ personal tales and tribulations and the strategies they adopted to breakdown barriers and build a global brand, based on pure and simple love. This talk promises to provide plenty of fuel to unlock our self-belief and confidence.

The event will also feature a number of exhibitors offering supports and advice from training, apprenticeships and business support; to personal development opportunities, enterprise support and live vacancies.

A special thanks to Causeway Labour Market Partnership, and the Connecting Communities project (funded by the International Fund for Ireland) for their sponsorship and support of this event.

SPEAKER / PANEL BIOS

Annette Kelly, Little Penny Thoughts

Annette Kelly: KEYNOTE SPEAKER

Personal performance and development coach Annette Kelly is the founder of Little Penny Thoughts and creator of Wellness From Within.

Little Penny Thoughts was born from a desire to bring simple moments of hope, positivity, and inspiration into people’s day and help them find joy and contentment in life.

Annette always believed in the power and impact of quotes and words, and sought to create a safe space online, to inspire and encourage those who came across it.

LPT is a vibrant community and a platform that celebrates the power of thoughts and kindness, creating products, content and experiences designed with love and compassion and sprinkled with joy to help people practically and emotionally to find moments of positivity and motivation and a toolkit to support a journey towards fulfilment, self-acceptance and self-love.

Annette strives to uplift, inspire and empower the audiences and individuals she has the pleasure of working with.

Annette’s talk will cover 3 elements: Self Talk, Self-Worth and Self Care. These three parts with be intertwined with the theme ‘Inspire Inclusion’. Highlighting when women themselves are inspired to be included, there’s a sense of belonging, relevance, and empowerment.

Karise Hutchinson, Professor of Leadership at Ulster University and Founder of Illuminaire Leadership

Professor Karise Hutchinson: KEYNOTE SPEAKER

Karise Hutchinson is a Professor of Leadership at Ulster University and Founder of Illuminaire Leadership – a global institute providing high quality, research-led insight to leaders in private, public and third sector organisations.

She is an award-winning researcher, author, educator, speaker, and strategic advisor to leaders in government, public and private sector, as well as not-for-profit organisations.

Whether it is her book Leadership and Small Business: The Power of Stories, her recent TED talks, or the launch of a new leadership publication series in 2024, Karise specialises in uncovering and spreading the very latest leadership thinking, helping leaders take a deeper look at how they think and practice leadership today, for the sake of tomorrow.

As Vice Chair of the Advisory Board for the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building, she has extended her research and practitioner expertise to the area of public leadership working with NI business leaders delivering the first collaborative programme to present NI leaders across political, local government, business, and civic realms.

Karise joined Ulster University in 2004 and was awarded a PhD in SME international management in 2006.

As a result of her strong engagement with industry, Karise has been involved in national media broadcasts on well-known radio and television programs, commenting on current economic issues in Northern Ireland from the perspective of the consumer and retailer, with publications in range of regional and national newspapers.

As a dedicated lifelong learner, Karise completed her Diploma in Company Directorship from the Institute of Directors in 2022.

The impact of her research has attracted attention across the world helping to make a difference in school leadership in Africa, mental health in children living in Malaysia, as well as safety education for school children with the Police Service in Northern Ireland.

Karise is also a non-executive director of several non-profit organisations – dedicated to advocating for practical, emotional and financial support to families in poverty, as well as supporting the growth of the small business sector in Northern Ireland.

Karise lives on the North Coast, with her husband and four children joining her on her adventure and love of life.

Caoimhe Archibald, Minister of Finance and MLA

Caoimhe Archibald, Minister of Finance Northern Ireland

Caoimhe grew up in Coleraine. She attended Loreto College, Coleraine, and graduated from Queens University, Belfast with a BSc in Molecular Biology and a PhD by research with a Department of Agriculture and Rural Development studentship. She also completed a Postgraduate diploma in Management & Corporate Governance at Ulster University.

Caoimhe was elected as an MLA for East Derry in May 2016 and re-elected in March 2017 and again in May 2022.

Caoimhe was appointed as Minister of Finance in the NI Executive in February 2024.

She is formerly Chair of the Assembly’s Economy and Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs committees.

Prior to being elected in May 2016, Caoimhe had worked for almost a decade in applied horticulture and plant pathology research including on collaborative EU funded projects.

Edel Murphy, CEO, University of Atypical for Arts & Disability

Edel Murphy: PANELLIST

Doctors told Edel Murphy she wouldn’t live past the age of 12.

But after 19 operations, some encouraging & supportive individuals, and successfully seeking out and growing collaborations, she was recently appointed as CEO of Northern Ireland’s leading disability arts organisation, University of Atypical, on 1st February 2024.

Born in Carndonagh, Donegal; and having moved to Moville, at age 8 she discovered a lump in her neck, and was diagnosed with Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia type 3 (MEN 3) – an extremely rare condition affecting the glands and hormones of around four people in Northern Ireland.

The removal of a thyroid tumour affected her speech, so using the 50 punts bursary she had won as part of a drama sketch she had written for the Féis in Donegal, she began drama lessons with then 85-year-old Mrs Eithne McCloskey in Derry – a renowned elocution teacher, who worked with Edel to help project her speech through poetry, drama and reading. This was the beginning of a lifelong love of the arts.

Over the years, Mrs McCloskey taught Edel how to speak again in public with confidence. She gave her a sense of herself, beyond her physicality – literally giving her voice back.The remarkable experience with her mentor Mrs McCloskey inspired her to work with other creative people with disabilities to fulfil their potential, to help change this part of the world for others who are longing to live their dreams, while embracing their atypical identity with excitement.

Beyond thyroid cancer, MEN3 presents a medley of other disabilities including skeletal challenges that impact Edel’s mobility. Having had a lifetime to adapt, Edel is adept at facing challenges, overcoming barriers and exceeding expectations in all aspects of her life. A sense of humour, optimism and positive identity, are all part of Edel’s toolkit for success.

She attended Queen’s University Belfast, working at Queen’s Film Theatre. She went to train as a teacher in Ulster University and after a career as an English and Drama teacher, she worked for the Arts Council of Northern Ireland for many years. She had mind set on working for the UofA working there first as Head of Business Administration, before her most recent appointment to CEO.

Next year she will marry her long-term partner Claire and believes it is important to live authentically, embracing diversity and being atypical.

Edel brings a wealth of knowledge to her new CEO role in respect of the Arts, a talented professional who has honed her craft across these islands and beyond. Alongside this, Edel brings formidable business acumen and lived experience of disability. She fully embraces that arts are a great mobiliser for people for understanding social issues.

Rabab Flack, Founder, Causeway Clear Ears, Coleraine

Rabab Flack: PANELLIST

Married to Denzil, Mum to 4 teenagers and Pup Josie.

Registered Nurse with over 20 years’ experience, having held Management and Leadership positions in the NHS.

With a true passion for community nursing, and having lost her mother in March 2022, Rabab found herself reflecting on the skills and experience she had acquired over the years.

Mum to four, she reflected on her work life balance and wondered where else she could apply her passion for safe and effective nursing care, whilst driving for excellence.

Undertaking the Go For It Business start-up programme, she further developed her business idea after realising there was a gap in the market with the termination of earwax removal services via primary care, and a population health need to access a high-quality, nurse-led ear health service.

In September 2022 Causeway Clear Ears launched – a Nurse-Led, Private Ear Health Service offering Home Visits, Clinic Appointments and Pop-Up Clinics across the Causeway Coast and Glens Borough area. In partnership with leading pharmacy chain – Pharmacy Plus – the business also offers pop-up ear clinics.

She has just completed a post-grad in primary ear care, which allows her to diagnose various ear conditions, including hearing loss and infections – recommending correct treatments, working closely with GP’s. Via the Ear Health Assessment Service Rabab supports families of children who are struggling to hear in school, or for whom behaviour is a concern.

She offers education and advice to young people on the importance of maintaining good ear health, and what research is teaching us on the link between good ear health and other neurological conditions as we age.

Within a very short space of time she has grown her client base and picked up a number of coveted awards, including Best New Start Up from Women in Business, Winner of Business of the Year (less than 50 staff) from NI Women’s Awards and a finalist in Services to Medicine and Businesswoman of the Year.

Rabab has a passion to encourage women in business, especially at the start up stage of their journey.

Una Leonard, Co-Founder, Support2gether

Una Leonard: PANELLIST

Support2gether provides education and support for families living with antenatal, postnatal depression & anxiety.

The organisations identity is a sunflower, a powerful symbol of positivity, strength, and happiness, which can help to communicate a sense of hope and optimism to those who are struggling with depression and anxiety.

The Support2gether team all have first-hand, lived experience of perinatal mental illness, and therefore, can automatically connect with the parents through empathy, hope, and a personal touch.

Una lived with postnatal depression and anxiety following the birth of her first child in 2006.

Her illness highlighted to her family how ill equipped they were to help and support, from this grew Support 2gether.

Una’s sister Brenda (Co-Founder) planted the first seed of what we know now as Support 2gether.

In October 2023 the Fill Ur Cuppa Support2gether podcast was launched following months of planning, scriptwriting and jangling nerves.

It’s broadcast every Monday as the organisation continues their ongoing mission to provide education and support for families. The pod is a way to continue the S2 conversation with mums and dads, and, to reach many more people, as the parenthood journey is universal. It features special guests and editions, as well as live events.

Collette Kelly, Timely Careers

Collette Kelly: PANELLIST

For many women returners, full-time work is simply not a realistic option, yet it is still often difficult to find skilled jobs, careers and opportunities that respect the other commitments and demands in our lives.

Timely Careers is a social enterprise that was created by Women in Business.

Its mission is to remove the obstacles, anxiety and challenges that women who want to return to work often face.

Through training and a jobs board, Timely Careers enables and empowers women to get back into work by connecting them to the right support and the right jobs, at the right time for them.

Timely has created a hub that respects the non-traditional working week. All the positions listed are either part-time, offer flexible working patterns, are job share or term time only.

Timely Careers also supports businesses by connecting them to a unique pool of talent. It celebrates the businesses that are working hard to effect change – hiring women returners because they recognise the value in creating and recruiting for non-traditional 9-5 roles. Employers can advertise posts on the Timely platform.