History was made on 24 March 2023 when 800 invited guests, mentors and pupils descended on ICC Belfast to celebrate the 2023 SistersIN cohort.
Throughout the past seven months, 10 Year 13 students from various schools across Northern Ireland have been shadowing the award-winning team at ICC Belfast to help successfully deliver the inaugural SistersIN Celebration Event. These lead pupils have been participating in the SistersIN programme, which has given 180 students the opportunity to gain work experience, explore real life career options and connect with senior female leaders from Northern Ireland.
Each of the 10 girls were assigned specific tasks to help deliver this large-scale event which showcased their leadership skills to many of Northern Ireland’s top companies across the digital, pharmaceutical, and financial service sectors.
...get a mentor, try new things, do something that you love and have confidence...
The event also welcomed double Olympian and Commonwealth Games medallist and former Assumption Grammar School pupil, Ciara Mageean. Ciara took to the main stage and spoke about her inspirations and how she dreamed of becoming an athlete as a young schoolgirl in Portaferry. Her career has not been without its challenges and even after injury she kept focused on her dream of being a runner. Her advice to the schoolgirls:
Find something that you enjoy doing and use that passion to strive and discover your full potential. Happiness brings success and remember anything is possible if you put your mind to it.
The SistersIN programme would not have been possible without the vision and leadership of Assumption Grammar School Principal and SistersIN founder, Peter Dobbin. Speaking at the Celebration Event, Peter talked about the programme’s mission to empower Northern Ireland’s future female leaders and that if you "dream big, you can make it happen." In relation to the 10 girls who delivered the SistersIN Celebration Event Peter said:
I’m thoroughly inspired by the confidence and leadership the girls showed throughout the event planning process. It was incredibly rewarding to see how they stepped up and met the challenge.
“The SistersIN programme aims to enable, empower, and develop female pupils to become the leaders of tomorrow and this event was a wonderful way to bring that ethos to life and celebrate the efforts of our participants and our supporters. I’m incredibly thankful to all of the organisations that got behind us this year and I look forward to building on these relationships to support the programme long into the future.”
Farah Oliver-McAuley delivers extraordinary speech on changing the world
Assumption Grammar School pupil and participant of the SistersIN programme, Farah Oliver-McAuley, brought the audience to their feet with her inspirational speech on what it means to support young female leaders of tomorrow. Her confidence and ability to deliver this speech demonstrated the power of the SistersIN programme and its ambition to encourage school aged girls to change the world. Holding the attention of the room, Farah spoke about “making a change when we have the opportunity to” and “being the change you want to see in the world." This isn’t the first time Farah delivered this incredible speech. Farah previously addressed the audience at an Institute of Director NI Women’s Leadership Conference and more recently the audience with Chancellor of Queen’s University Belfast and Former United States Secretary of State Secretary Hillary R. Clinton as part of Agreement 25 marking the anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.
SistersIN activate their spirit animals to drive success
Under the expert guidance of the award-winning ICC Belfast team, which included global award-winning Eimear Hone, a PCMA 20 in their Twenties Class of 2023 alum, and Laurel Gray who holds a place on the International Association of Convention Centres Future Shapers programme, the 10 girls running the event had weekly check in meetings. Each week, the lead pupils were asked to choose what spirit animal they had embodied in the previous week. Spirit animals is a term coined by British economist, John Maynard Keynes in 1936 and is depicted from the Latin spiritus animalis: "the breath that awakens the human mind." This concept, which is often used by business leaders to motivate and influence teams, was woven into the room dressing and Celebration Event theme with designated Wolf, Dolphin and Lion zones across Hall 1.
Over 30 exhibitors including ICC Belfast, EY, Danske Bank and Kainos took over Hall 1BC which was transformed into the Dolphin zone. Following the keynote speeches, the invited guests attended hosted panel discussions in both the Wolf and Lion Zones in Hall 1A and Hall 1D which involved a number of female leaders from Northern Ireland including Aisling Press, Managing Director of Personal Banking at Danske Bank UK, Sara Long, Chief Executive of Education Authority Northern Ireland and Mairead Scott, Managing Director of Honeycomb Jobs. Speaking after her involvement in the Lion zone panel discussion, Chief Executive of ICC Belfast | Waterfront Hall | Ulster Hall Julia Corkey commented “We were delighted to host the SistersIN Celebration Event at our award-winning venue.
I’m certain that the hands on experience the pupils have gained from shadowing our team will be really beneficial. Equally, the unique perspectives that the SistersIN cohort have brought to the planning process have been a fantastic learning exercise for our team.
“The pupils now have in-depth knowledge into what it takes to deliver a world-class business event as well as the important role ICC Belfast plays in Belfast and Northern Ireland’s overall economic development. ICC Belfast was one of the first organisations to join the SistersIN programme which is a testament to our commitment to supporting the next generation of female leaders. We look forward to continuing our relationship with SistersIN and supporting many more students in the years to come.”
The Celebration Event main stage closed with a surprise message from Past President of Ireland, Mary McAleese. President McAleese was the first President of Ireland to come from Northern Ireland and also the first woman in the world to succeed another woman as President. Niamh Mc Sherry, one of the lead pupils from Our Lady’s Grammar School, together with her mentor Marie Farrell secured the message from President McAleese, a fitting end to this incredible event.