While I was in bed recently on a complete chemo slump, I decided to do a spot of research on the networks that are available in Ireland. And so it was on this body of research that I came across BPW Ireland. I pride myself on being pretty up to date on what networks are out there, but this was new to me. Not one to sit on my laurels, I popped off an email to see if the President would be interested in having a chat with me about BPW Ireland for my blog. Here is what I found out.
I can honestly say that the conversation was unexpected and inspiring. Moyra McMahon, the Irish National President, took me back to 1916. 1916 people…we are in the throws on World War 1. And I can honestly say that I never considered mentioning a World War in one of my blog posts!
Women were being recruited to roles in companies and factories as the men had gone to war. The US President enrolled the support of Lena Madesin Phillips to help the integration of women into the workforce. She was tasked with understanding the challenges faced in these difficult and trying times.
When the war ended, women were expected to go back to the kitchen and put the aprons back on. Lena, who by this time, changed her name to Madesin, wanted to continue supporting women being an integral part of the workforce. In 1919 she founded the National Business & Professional Women’s Clubs.
Ahead of Her Time
Now think about that for a moment. Business + Professional + Women in the same sentence in 1919! This lady was way ahead of her time. The clubs grew and they started to expand further afield, venturing into Europe. Women wanted to see factories and businesses. Europeans couldn’t understand this…why not go shopping and visit museums while in Paris, they would say.
By 1930, Madesin branched out to create an International Federation and soon 14 countries were involved in BPW. There first congress was held in Geneva. 1962 saw the inception of a club in Ireland.
Today BPW spans North America, South America, Asia, Africa and Europe. There are 30,000 members worldwide and typically club sizes average about 35 people.
EU Consultation Status
There aren’t too many networks around that have something truly unique about them. But BPW Ireland does. BPW as a federation has legacy ties and consultation status with Europe and the EU.
What that means is that each national chapter collects data on the issues and challenges of the day. This data is collated and presented to Europe in order to influence and work towards better policies, e.g. green agenda, sustainability, energy, women on boards, equal pay etc.
The International Focus
What I really loved about this network is that it really has an international focus. It looks beyond Ireland and integrates into Europe. There are opportunities to network locally and to get experience on committees, to travel abroad to conferences and to get involved in project groups that bring you in contact with your European counterparts, What a great experience for many who might what a more internationally focused career, be it in law, policitics, education or beyond.
There are three clubs in Ireland.
- Galway is the largest with 80 members. President is Louise Creevy.
- Tullamore – President is Bernie Henry.
- Howth – Presient is Jeannette Byrne.
Now, you’ll no doubt be thinking that Howth and Tullamore aren’t the meccas of networking hubs, however the members who are passionate about BPW Ireland have brought the clubs to their areas. Past clubs have also been in Sligo and Kilkenny, so it’s very much following the passion of the member.
You can join a club from whereever you are in the country, or perhaps you’d like to set up your own group? If this is the case, you can reach out to Moyra here.
As the overall organisation runs as a federation, international meetings are held every 3rd year and regional meetings, e.g. European meetings happen on years 1 & 2. Past conferences have been held in Argentina and Malta, so this is always an added bonus and opportunity.
A steal at just €90 per annum. To register you can follow this link: https://www.bpwireland.ie/membership
Members range in age from their 20s to their 80s. Moyra commented on the breadth of age, citing that older members are kept younger by the young members and young members learn and get mentored by the older members. It’s a lovely mix of career and business professionals.
Members comes for the friendship, to meet mentors, to establish long term relationships and to play a part in defining policies and having international links.
Cadence of Meetings
There is a meeting once a month per club. for 10 months of the year.
At various points throughout the year there are a number of events, such as summer get togethers. A candle lighting ceremony, which runs in February every year, celebrates all of the clubs on a global scale.
The style and format of the monthly meetings varies in terms of content. Sometimes it’s around business or having a notable guest speaker to address the members.
The Executive meeting 4 times a year for the AGM and other administrative meetups. All members are welcome to attend these meetings too.
There is a National Council which deals with how to address and push forward with issues that the EU needs to address.
Working Groups (bpw-europe.org) – these are the working groups active at BPW Europe at the moment.
Current working groups are as follows. I’ve linked each one to the European page. Some of the information is old, but you’ll get a sense for what is what!
- Women on Boards
- Charter of Girl’s Rights
- Equal Pay Day
- Green & Sustainable
- Learning for Leadership
- Women’s Empowerment Principles
There is a group of young business and career professionals who are also coming together to learn and shine. The profile for the young BPWers is:
- a student
- just starting or early in your career
- wanting to develop into a leader in your chosen career
- wishing to create or develop your own business
- looking for the right balance between your professional and personal lives
What a great way to start expanding beyond your borders and to get networking with peers from across Europe!
Connecting on Social
You can follow the Tullamore activity at www.bpwtullamore.ie
Have you read some of my recent blogs?