Northern Irish business leaders urged not to ignore female talent

Lobby group believes it is imperative to ‘embed’ gender diversity

Colin Walsh, Liz Earle, Rotha Johnston and Stuart Carson at the CBI lunch in Belfast yesterday. Photograph: Stephen Hamilton

Colin Walsh, Liz Earle, Rotha Johnston and Stuart Carson at the CBI lunch in Belfast yesterday. Photograph: Stephen Hamilton

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Business leaders in the North have been urged not to “judge a book by its cover” when it comes to nurturing and recruiting female talent, by one of the UK’s top entrepreneurs in Belfast yesterday.

Liz Earle, founder of a global beauty business which she sold to Avon in 2010, a charity and organic farm, said companies should look beyond just a CV and consider that female talent also has other facets such as family life or entrepreneurial experience over a formal qualification.

Speaking at CBI Northern Ireland’s annual lunch at Titanic Belfast, Ms Earle told more than 420 guests that experiences garnered outside the workplace can be just as valuable to companies as degrees.

Business imperative

Colin Walsh, chairman of CBI NI, said he believed it was a “business imperative” that companies take more action to “embed” gender diversity in the workplace.

“Personally, I look forward to the day when from education to entry into work, through management positions and beyond that we have addressed the remaining issues to make the topic of gender diversity an accepted part of the business culture and that we do not have to talk about it anymore,” he said.

He said the composition of the audience at the event – there was a 44 per cent female representation, and some tables had 100 per cent female turnout – showed that CBI actively supported diversity in the workplace.

“Today sees the official Northern Ireland launch of a clear commitment from the CBI that we will take the necessary steps to ensure that all of our work – through our council, committees, events and policymaking activities – there will be a female participation rate of at least 30 per cent on a comply or explain basis.”

Warning

But he said diversity in the workplace was not the only challenge facing Northern Ireland. He also warned of the economic and political issues that remained to be dealt with.

Mr Walsh said despite encouraging job creation numbers – 16,000 in the past 12 months and new inward investment projects – the journey to grow the economy, “the backbone and generator of wealth in our society”, had only begun.

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