For Carmen Taheny, it is “a great honour” to be made National President of Business and Professional Women (BPW) Ireland, and even more so because she is from the West of Ireland
BPW, explains Carmen, is not just for businesswomen, but any professional women. She herself is employed by children’s charity the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC) as the organisation’s national corporate fundraiser.
“Basically, my job is to encourage companies to support the ISPCC and for their staff to fundraise for us. It’s very challenging at the moment as you can imagine, but there are still a lot of good people who support children’s charities,” she says.
Carmen has been involved with BPW Galway, one of four Irish branches of the organisation, for nine years, and both through that involvement, and through her own career, she has seen a lot of change in the perception and acceptance of women in the workplace.
“People are looking at women differently, and I think the recession has pushed that, because there are so many women back in the workforce. It’s great, but at the same time it’s awful to see that it has to take a recession for that to happen,” she muses.
Many more women are now setting up their own businesses too, and Carmen sees an organisation like BPW as a vital resource to these entrepreneurs, with its ethos of ‘share, educate and have a voice’ at the centre of all it does. BPW members mentor each other and provide a vital support network for women in business.
“Why we’re so successful, I think, is the way we operate. We meet once a month, we have a meeting, we have a chat – if people have problems in their business or the workplace, even, they can always pick up the phone to me or to any of the other members,” explains Carmen.
The club’s international links are another obvious strength, and along with expanding on a national level, cementing BPW Ireland’s links with its international counterparts is high on Carmen’s agenda for her two-year tenure, which began in April.
“As a women’s organisation, we are different from all the other ones, because of the links we have,” she says.
“I’m hoping in my two years to bring more clubs in Ireland on board, and to cement our links internationally, that they know that BPW Ireland is very active. We’ve never really tapped enough into our international links, and that’s my main aim, to do that.”
The first step on the road to cementing those international links with BPW branches across Europe and the United States is a seminar for women entrepreneurs, which will take place in Galway, on Friday, 14 September at the Salthill Hotel.
The ‘Supporting Women Entrepreneurs’ seminar is being organised by BPW and Galway Chamber of Commerce, in conjunction with the European Commission.
As well as featuring a keynote address by Colette Twomey, Managing Director of Clonakilty Black Puddings, the seminar will feature mentors flying in from BPW branches in Finland, Sweden and the UK.
“This is a great opportunity for us, it’s a big step,” says Carmen, who hopes that if this event is successful, that it can be replicated in other Irish towns and cities, with a view to establishing permanent BPW branches there.
To find out more about BPW Galway, or to register for the Supporting Women Entrepreneurs seminar, visit www.bpwgalway.ie. Tickets to the event cost €30, including lunch, and it is open to the public. Tickets will be issued on a first-come, first-served basis.