If you can’t see it you can’t be it
In early 2022 Letterkenny Chamber was pleased to announce the second female President in its history. Over the years the Chamber has seen a steady increase in the number of women on the Chamber Council which is the board that manages the Chamber activity and strategy.
There has always been business women on the council but in recent years the number has increased where now there are 7out of a total of 17 members making this an historic moment.
All of these women have served on the Council for a number of years and have increasingly chaired sub-committees, leading the strategy of the chamber. This year five of them have stepped into leadership roles.
Kristine Reynolds, holds the position of President; Claire McDonough Owner of La Maison Interior Design Studio is one of two Vice Presidents; Fionnuala Rabbitt, MD of Highland Radio is also Vice President; Patricia Hill, Stateside American Restaurant is Treasurer and Karoline Sweeney, Castlegrove Country House Hotel is Deputy Treasurer.
Also on the Chamber council are Clare McNickle, Clare Clothing and Annette Houston, FM services who have both served as Vice Presidents in the past.
Commenting on this step in the history of the Chamber Kristine Reynolds said “this marks a step forward for Letterkenny Chamber. The Chamber is highly visible and we want to reflect wider society and the business community. I was delighted to take my place as President and it is a privilege to work with such a dynamic group of highly skilled and experienced business women.”
“We feel we can act as advocates for other women and in particular young women who are thinking of going in to business. We have a diverse Chamber team who support the work of the office and the President. Over the years we have sought to have businesses from different sectors represented as well as large and small organisations, independent and multinational. This gives a richness to the Chamber and makes us representative of our membership.”
Women are still under-represented in the business world with only 13% of CEOs being women and only 29% of boards have 40% female representation. While things are improving more is needed to get a balance that reflects the population as a whole.
The more women at board level or in leadership roles then the more visible they become and enable others to see that it is possible, put simply if you can’t see it, you can’t be it. The leadership team in Letterkenny Chamber are clearly advocating for more women to get involved.
Claire McDonough, Vice President said “we need to show leadership and be positive role models for our young people in particular. Women make up just slightly over 50% of the population so boards and executive roles should be moving towards reflecting this. In the Chamber we have never sought to do positive gender discrimination but the more women we voted in each year the more became interested.”
“I became involved in the Chamber Council a few years ago and have been active in working on the strategic goals of the Chamber. It’s been a good time for Letterkenny Chamber over the last number of years. During covid we actively reached out to a wide group of business people across Letterkenny and the County. I am proud to be a member of the Chamber and proud to be represented in the executive team.”
Karoline Sweeney, Castle Grove Hotel explains her involvement “when I got involved in the Chamber it was about being involved in the community and to network, I suppose over time I realised that the Chamber does so much more than I expected and reaches out to many more businesses and stakeholders than people imagine. The Chamber is involved in so much locally, regionally and nationally. In my time we have seen many changes and faced many challenges and I can see how the Chamber punches well above its weight with a such a small team.”
Letterkenny Chamber is the only full time Chamber in Donegal and it is fully affiliated to Chambers Ireland. It could not operate without the support of the Department of Social Protection, Community Employment Programme. This programme enables the Chamber to employ staff in its office and supports sub sponsors in the community. It is the office staff that provide the much needed resources throughout the year to make Letterkenny Chamber a success. The support of the Department of Social Protection is very much appreciated.
The Chamber Council is made up of 17 members who all run businesses or are senior professionals. They give their time voluntarily and work hard on behalf of the membership and wider business community to improve the business environment in the County. This executive team is a move in the right direction however we always need more diversification and encourage anyone who would like to get involved to get in touch.