IMAGE Businesswoman Of The Year Awards 2016

On The Silver Screen - The Award Winning Selfie
‘On The Silver Screen’ – The Award Winning Selfie

On Monday evening, November 21st, among 800 guests, the winners of the IMAGE Businesswoman of the Year Awards 2016 were announced at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel. The Smurfit MBA Team and IMAGE MBA Scholarship winners were delighted to join in the celebrations.

L - Editor in Chief IMAGE Magazine, Melanie Morris. R - MC Anne Doyle.
L – Editor in Chief IMAGE Magazine, Melanie Morris. R – MC Anne Doyle.

Now in its tenth year, the much anticipated IMAGE Businesswoman of the Year Awards champions trailblazing businesswomen’s contribution to Ireland’s economy and their vital role within the Irish business community at home and abroad. There were nine categories, with over 90 nominees; all inspirational, talented, not to mention glamorous, Irish businesswomen.

You can see the full list of winners here.

L-R: Susan Murdock, Davinia Anderson, Avril Donohue, Kathy O'Reilly, Ro Downing, Aisling O'Keeffe, Grace Milton, Virginia Stewart, Paula Thomas
L-R: Susan Murdock, Davinia Anderson, Avril Donohue, Kathy O’Reilly, Ro Downing, Aisling O’Keeffe, Grace Milton, Virginia Stewart, Paula Thomas

Ahead of the awards we enjoyed Winter Wonderland themed cocktails and admired the amazing, glittering backdrops by Miller & Lamb. It was a fantastic evening which left all guests feeling inspired and empowered. It was a pleasure to share it with so many extraordinary women. The Smurfit Team didn’t come away empty handed, we won the much coveted prize of ‘Best Selfie’, chosen by IMAGE and The Irish Independent.

Winter Wonderland Cockatils
Winter Wonderland Cockatils

I’m sure I speak for all guests when I say that I’m already looking forward to #BWOTY17!

To find out more about the IMAGE MBA Scholarship; application dates, entry criteria and how to apply, click here.

Avril Donohue ~ MBA Alumni Relations, Communications & Events

Launch of Women’s Network WMBA

Women of the MBA group networking event, Friday 17th June
Women of the MBA group networking event, Friday 17th June

As a current MBA student in Smurfit, I was recently involved in setting up a women’s network on campus – the Women of the MBA. Last Friday, 17th June,  we successfully launched the group at an event attended by both male and female, past and present students of the MBA.

We were delighted to host a panel discussion with four exceptional female Alumni:  Grainne Barron, Founder & CEO Viddyad; Mary Lambkin, Professor of Marketing, Smurfit; Marcella Flood, Head of Digital Transformation, Allianz Worldwide Care & Orla Nugent, MBA Programme Director, Smurfit.

The theme of the night was how the Smurfit MBA can empower women to become leaders and take a seat at the table. We heard stories of the challenges of being female in Silicon Valley, stories of how an engineering background evolved into a career in academia, and of how being the eldest in your family gives you a natural advantage when it comes to being a leader! All of our speakers spoke candidly and openly about their journey to where they are today. It was a very engaging discussion which sparked some lively conversations during the Q&A.  A common thread running through all of the stories was the importance of self belief and hard work in achieving your goals. Another prevalent theme on the night was the importance of eliminating gender as an issue for the benefit of future generations.  This is why I believe it is so important that we get together to build networks such as the WMBA.

Women of the MBA group networking event, Friday 17th June
Women of the MBA group networking event, Friday 17th June

The MBA here at Smurfit has empowered so many great female leaders and it is a great time to be a woman in business with such initiatives as the 30% club. The WMBA hope to work on a number of initiatives to support female students and will host further networking events in the coming months for both male and female Alumni.

As the seanfhocail goes Ní neart go cur le chéile – There is no strength without unity. By coming together in unity we can keep this conversation going, men and women alike, to increase awareness and affect change collectively.

Women of the MBA group networking event, Friday 17th June
Women of the MBA group networking event, Friday 17th June

Ruth Mc Avoy ~ Executive MBA

The Smurfit MBA IMAGE Scholarship

Image DPS 2016

Win up to €17,250 towards a Full-Time or Executive MBA at UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School.

IMAGE Magazine, in association with UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, is offering one female candidate a scholarship covering 50% of fees (upper value €17,250) for the Full-Time or Executive MBA programme starting end August 2016.

Selection will be based on submission of a short essays as follows:

“Tell us (in 500 words or less) about how you have demonstrated initiative and leadership in your career to date”.

A panel of judges will evaluate essay submissions and entrants will then be invited to complete a full MBA application if they have not already done so.

The scholarship worth up to €17,250 can only be used towards tuition fees on the Full-Time or Executive (part-time) MBA Programme at UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School; it will be awarded to the best female candidate who meets the selection criteria and standard MBA programme entry requirements as outlined below. Applications close April 29th 2016If you are interested in applying, please click here.

  1. You must have a minimum university degree or equivalent professional qualification and a minimum of three years’ relevant work experience.
  2. A panel of judges will select a short-list of candidates who will have to complete the standard MBA programme application process.
  3. You must have already taken or be prepared to take at short notice the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). Admission to the programme is subject to achieving a minimum score of 580 (full-time)/520 (part-time) on this test. Further information at and The scholarship winner must have taken and secured the relevant minimum GMAT test entry score by May 31st at the latest.
  4. You must have two references, normally from current and/or former employer and/or colleague.
  5. The Image Scholarship will be awarded to the highest calibre female candidate selected from the applications received, subject to their meeting, at a minimum, the standard entry requirements of the UCD Smurfit School full-time or executive MBA.
  6. UCD Smurfit School reserves the right not to award the scholarship if the judging panel does not deem any of the candidates to be of the required calibre.
  7. Final admission is subject to an interview.

Previous IMAGE MBA Scholarship winners, Davinia Anderson and Paula Thomas, discuss the impact that winning the scholarship has had on their careers and personal development, and offer advice to anyone considering applying to the IMAGE MBA Scholarship at UCD Smurfit School this year. Watch the video below:

Applications close April 29th 2016. If you are interested in applying, please click here.

Avril Donohue ~ MBA Alumni Relations, Communications & Events

Who run the world? GIRLS!

WMBA Lunch at the weekend
WMBA Lunch over the weekend

Looking around our current MBA classes, we see a group that is mainly male dominated. Recognising the power of the women in our MBA classes, we recently set up a Women of the MBA group to connect both current students and alumni with one another, to create a community, to network and to have fun!

The issue of gender bias is widely debated and by getting together as a group we hope to further debate these issues and break through the fear and the barriers that so many women face. Psychologist Pauline Clance, coined the term “Imposter Syndrome”, after an interviewee in their research study said she “felt like an imposter, here with all these really bright people”. She suggests that it is particularly prevalent and intense among high achieving women. We, the WMBA, are high achieving women! The idea for setting up this group partly stemmed from a discussion among a few of our classmates on the Imposter Syndrome and how we can support each other within the MBA.

Groups like the WMBA encourage us to discuss these issues, get over our fears and raise awareness of gender bias. While we hope to get an official launch event with Alumni and current students off the ground soon, we have attended some external events together including IMAGE breakfast events, the Smurfit 30% Club event and more recently we had a lunch for current EMBA and FT MBA female students.  Our LinkedIn group allows us to share events, articles and spark interesting online conversations.

Finally, we are conscious that we do not want to exclude all the wonderful gentleman in our classes and create a gender divide! It is even rumoured that some of the current male students refer to the WMBA as our “secret society”, so I hope this unveils some of the secrecy (we’re not actually talking about you!) and we will definitely welcome you to our future events…

Ruth Mc Avoy ~ Executive MBA

‘Business Imagined Better Together – Inclusion, Diversity & Unconscious Bias in Business’

L-R: Niamh Brennan, Ingrid Devin, Mark Ryan, Noirin O'Sullivan, Gina Quin
L-R: Niamh Brennan, Ingrid Devin, Mark Ryan, Noirin O’Sullivan, Gina Quin (Photo Credit – Angela Halpin)

Thank you to everybody who joined the UCD Smurfit School & 30% Club Panel Discussion at The Conrad Hotel on Tuesday evening for our panel discussion.

Prof. Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh opened proceedings for the evening. Our moderator Niamh Brennan and panelists Mark Ryan, Gina Quin, Noirin O’Sullivan and Ingrid Devin explored the topic – “Business Imagined Better Together – Inclusion, Diversity and Unconscious Bias in Business”.

UCD & 30% Club Panel Discussion Event 23.02.16
UCD & 30% Club Panel Discussion Event 23.02.16

The evening was a great success with a lively panel discussion, interesting Q&A session with our audience and plenty of networking. You can see highlights from the evening on our YouTube Channel, link below:

Watch highlights from UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate School of Business and 30% Club Panel Discussion.

The 30% Club runs a number of very specific and targeted initiatives that look to broaden the pipeline of women at all levels, from schoolroom to boardroom. It is made up of a group of business leaders committed to achieving better gender balance at all levels of organisations. It is a global opportunity for businesses to improve the way they perform by encouraging talented females into leadership positions. The 30% club has impacted on firms around the world and engages in activities spanning the school room to the boardroom. The group aims to reach a 30% female gender balance on Irish boards and executive management level by 2020.

All photos from the event are now available to view here.


Scholarship Opportunity:

UCD Smurfit School and The 30% Club are offering a full tuition fee scholarship to one female candidate wishing to enter the Diploma in Corporate Governance commencing in September 2016. To find out more about the scholarship, please click here.

Avril Donohue ~ MBA Alumni Relations, Communications & Events


IMAGE Businesswoman of The Year Awards 2015

image sign

Last night, we joined almost 800 other guests to celebrate the IMAGE Businesswoman of the Year Awards at the Double Tree Hilton Hotel, Dublin. The awards, now in their ninth year, honour the incredible businesswomen of Ireland and their outstanding achievements.

'The Smurfettes' putting our complimentary selfie-stick to use!
‘The Smurfettes’ putting our complimentary selfie-stick to use!

The room was buzzing with energy as we awaited the announcements of the awards. Presenter Pat Kenny (the “thinking woman’s crumpet”) got the evening off to a great start, reflecting on his student days and gender imbalance, and miraculously somehow managed to silence a room of 750 excited women (well done, Pat!). Mary Finan, former Chair of the RTÉ Authority and one of the founding partners at Wilson Hartnell Public Relations, gave an inspirational speech when picking up her Lifetime Achievement Award.

IMAGE MBA Scholarship Winners with Melanie Morris, Editor in Chief IMAGE Magazine L-R – Aisling O’Keeffe, Grace Milton, Melissa Camargo, Melanie Morris, Paula Thomas, Davinia Anderson
L-R – Olivia Caslin, Carley Wasechek, Paula Thomas, Davinia Anderson, Aisling O’Keeffe, Melissa Camargo, Grace Milton, Orla Nugent, Lindsey Nguyen

The Smurfit MBA was represented by both our past and present IMAGE Scholarship Winners and also two of our students who promote Women in Business via the MBA Social Outreach Committee.

Orla Nugent, MBA Programme Director and member of the IMAGE BWOTY judging panel, Olivia Caslin, UCD Smurfit Marketing Manager, and myself were also present to celebrate each of the winners and enjoy a truly fabulous evening.

IMAGE Awards 1
L-R – Olivia Caslin, Melissa Camargo, Davinia Anderson, Carley Wasechek, Aisling O’Keeffe, Avril Donohue, Lindsey Nguyen, Paula Thomas, Grace Milton, Orla Nugent

A very special congratulations to our Smurfit MBA Alumna, Niamh Gallagher, on winning the award for Social Entrepreneurship, co-founder, Women for Election, along with her business partner Michelle O’Donnell.

Photo from

Women for Election provides training, support and mentoring to women, to encourage them to become more politically active. The group was 2011 winner of the Social Entrepreneurs Ireland IMPACT award, and in 2014 the Ireland Funds Flagship Programme Award. Prior to Women for Election, Michelle spent over 17 years in the financial services sector focusing primarily in the area of multinational project management and change management, while Niamh worked as a Research and Policy Analyst at the Children’s Rights Alliance in Dublin.

Thank you IMAGE for a wonderful evening, you can see some of the highlights here IMAGE Highlights.

More selfie-stick action
More selfie-stick action

Avril Donohue ~ MBA Alumni Relations, Marketing & Events



We were gently warned during the week one induction course that our lives would change drastically both during and following the MBA. For many of us, that meant our freedom as we knew it was over – at least for the next two years anyway. Starting with the GMAT, followed by year one of the EMBA, the last twelve months have been thought provoking, exhausting and exhilarating.


Just a few weeks ago, we were in the midst of exams while counting down the days until we could stop and take a deep breath and finally relax. The thought brings to mind a famous quote by Nelson Mandela – “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others”. I have certainly cast off my chains and will make the most of a summer that will inevitably be a sprint rather than a marathon.

The final part of the quote however continues to resonate. My new found freedom, and possibly the added impact of the result of the recent equality referendum, has led me to reflect on equality and inevitably that infamous glass ceiling. There have been many articles and debates about gender inequality over the last number of years. However, the result of the recent referendum has told us that, in Ireland at least, most people place a high value on equality.

While deciding which MBA program to undertake, if any at all, the ratio of men to women struck me as unusually unbalanced and slightly daunting. However my mind was set at ease following the Smurfit open evening in collaboration with Image Magazine. The room was filled with approximately 100 young enthusiastic, intelligent but slightly tentative women. In the mid-week EMBA class alone, the male to female ratio is approximately 5:1 a similar ratio to most business schools. Only four of the top twelve business schools have 40% or more female students.


While I had reservations initially, I made it through the entire first year without really considering the fact that I was in the minority. The MBA for far too many years has been incorrectly portrayed as a ‘boys club’ full of intense rivalry and competition and an ongoing giant battle of egos. I cannot say, with certainty that no competition occurred within the course however I can attest to the fact that it was limited to a healthy rivalry between groups and even classes. For some reason, the mid-week and weekend EMBA classes insist on sitting at opposite ends of the room any time they are together. I must admit though, that this is probably purely down to familiarity rather than anything else.

While chatting with friends over the past twelve months, it struck me that maybe not as many women as men want to reach the top tiers of business or give up their ‘freedom’ for two years. Those sentiments were echoed by the female partners at the Big Four Accounting Practices interviewed by the authors of an article that continues to resonate with me any time gender inequality or the infamous glass ceiling is mentioned.


That article, “Through the Glass Ceiling” was co-written by UCD’s Niamh Brennan and Claire Miller for the February 2014 issue of Accountancy Ireland, honestly and genuinely questioned gender inequality. It is not a feminist’s portrayal of the world but a realistic and welcome authentic view of women in business.

Something I have often contemplated but was reluctant to voice is the suggestion that the focus by firms on diversity & engagement in recent years may have introduced an element of positive discrimination favouring women. The need to satisfy certain quotas isn’t equality, and certainly makes bad business sense. So after years of fighting for equality, have we gone a step too far? Who wants to be promoted purely because they are male, female, black, white, young or old rather than on merit? It is time the focus is reengineered to equality rather than filling quotas or being seen as being a diverse employer. At the end of the day, the best person for the job, team or Board should be chosen.

In summary, my initial concern about being one of a small group of women among a big group of aggressive egotistical men on the MBA program was completely unfounded and entirely unjustified. At Smurfit I have been treated by the MBA program staff, the lectures and my course colleagues with the upmost respect and absolute professionalism and have never been positively or negatively discriminated. While only half way through the journey, I can also honestly say that the friends I have made and continue to make during my MBA will be friends for life.

Dorothy Chestnutt ~ Executive MBA, Year 1

International Women’s Day 2015


We’re all members of the MBA family but we’re also supporters of women and their achievements. Last month, we celebrated those achievements and helped raise awareness of the issue of equality by wearing purple to the classroom. Purple symbolises justice and dignity, two values strongly associated with women’s equality. Thanks to all who took part – #makeithappen

Lindsey Nguyen ~ Full Time MBA