‘Fear and insecurity’ are biggest threats to women in business

Lucy Gaffney offers advice at Women Mean Business awards

Fear and insecurity are the biggest threats to women thinking big and living their vision, Communicorp chairwoman Lucy Gaffney has said.

She told attendees at the Women Mean Business awards to ignore begrudgers, critical friends, and “people who drain you of your spark”.

“If you have the vision, if you have the work done, if the risk has been assessed, if you’ve worked hard – just do it. It might fail – you might fail. But so what?”

“If there is one major difference between women and men – it’s that women are not consumed with ego – they are not afraid to be vulnerable….and that’s what makes us great around the business table – we bring emotional intelligence, intuition, focus drive.”


She said daring to innovate, create, change and stay relevant is what separates good companies from brilliant companies.

"Netflix, don't forget, did not start out producing their own programmes. Google did not start out producing phones," she said.

“Having the idea isn’t good enough – you’ve got to have the ambition and confidence to make it real,” she added.

Referencing Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In philosophy, she said "lean in my arse – we have to stay upright – most women I know if they had to lean in any further they would fall over."

She said it takes confidence to put people around you who are better in some areas than you, but those people will help make your vision a reality and make you look good in the process.

Ms Gaffney repeated her leaving cert, gaining a place at UCD only to drop out. She is now head of Denis O’Brien’s radio group Communicorp. She said yesterday she had learned more about herself and life by her failures.

“When I had to repeat my Leaving Cert, I realised I didn’t want to be a pharmacist like my dad. When I dropped out of college, it made me do language and typing course, which led me into my first job.”

What would she tell her 18-year-old self? “Fail magnificently but quickly, ignore the critics, fall off the horse and get back on.”

Anne Heraty, chief executive of recruitment firm Cpl Resources, was named Businesswoman of the Year 2014 at the Women Mean Business awards. Ramona Nicholas of Cara Pharmacy received the WMB Female Entrepreneur of the Year award, while To Russia With Love founder Debbie Deegan won in the Social Entrepreneur category.

Other award-winners at today’s event included Paula Fitzsimons of Going for Growth, who received the Empowering Women award and Pharmapod founder Leonora O’Brien, who took home the Woman in Technology Award.

Amongst those who spoke at the awards ceremony, which took place in the Shelbourne Hotel, were Irish Stock Exchange CEO Deirdre Somers, Elaine Coughlan, general partner of Atlantic Bridge Capital, and Niamh Bushnell, Dublin’s recently appointed Commissioner for Start-ups.