Women in Leadership: An Interview with Maura Byrne, CEO HERizon

Trayc Keevans 26.02.2016

Morgan McKinley are delighted to feature Maura Byrne, CEO and Founder of HERizon, the largest event for working women in Ireland. She created 'The Baby and Kids'' Show in 1996, a hugely successful pregnancy and parenting event.

Maura ByrneAfter completing studies in child psychology, she began a course in children's writing which resulted in 5 books over 7 years, the most successful being 'Bridget in Werewolf Rehab''. Maura is passionate about women tapping into their full potential in their careers, business, health and life.

Who is your role model as a leader?
Two women come to mind. Frances Fitzgerald has always impressed me with her quiet energy and strong work ethic. The Department of Justice is an enormous portfolio but she manages it with dignity and has also shown that ageism isn’t tolerated in Irish politics. Overseas, Hilary Clinton is a trailblazer for female leadership, intelligence, resilience and determination.

What accomplishments are you most proud of?
Besides my family, being kind, empathetic and useful when someone needs my help. In work, the Baby and Kids Show was a massive commercial success that employed a lot of people and was wonderful fun.  Being creative and writing children’s books and helping inner-city children write their own books felt good. Setting up HERizon, the largest event for working women, to champion women’s advancement feels good too. We have 2,300 Twitter followers on @herizonevent after only 9 weeks so there’s a huge interest from women in getting ahead. 

What has been the greatest challenge(s) in your career and how did you overcome it(them)?
Starting a new business is always a challenge. There’s building the event brand, cash flow, finding customers, finding talent, keeping the faith. Every day is a climb. Overcoming these challenges requires the support of family, friends, colleagues and the Holy Ghost.

If you had advice for your eighteen year old self, what would it be?
I would tell myself to mind my money more. Set up a pension. Oh and buy shares in mobile phone technology because you’ll make a fortune! 

What is the most valuable advice that you have been given?
Be patient and trust in yourself.

What are the challenges to female leadership?
The challenges are often within us as women. The feeling that we’re not good enough. That we shouldn’t ask for that pay rise. That we’re not qualified enough. I hope that HERizon helps to change this mind set and women learn ways to become more confident and just go for it!

Some companies and industries still do not encourage inclusion and gender diversity. Thankfully this is changing but more needs to be done. There are still only 10% of women on the boards of publicly quoted companies.

Government needs to address childcare and childcare costs to allow women more flexibility because half of all working women are mothers. The working week schedule needs to change from the patriarchal model. It is better that women can be offered flexible and term time contracts or days to work on contract at home but more needs to be done to make it easier for women to move into positions of leadership. More in-company mentoring, more advocacy, more support with men helping women to climb too.
And female entrepreneurs need far more support and funding particularly when they’re trying to scale-up their businesses. Too many start-ups talk about early support that then falls away when the company starts to grow. The backbone of the global economy is SME’s but support isn’t strong enough for growing business and this needs to improve.

Name three things in your "bucket list".

  • Visit to Machu Picchu
  • Work with the charity Hope Of Calcutta for a week
  • Write another book 

What is your definition of success and/or your mantra?
Success can be many things and it isn’t always about money. Always question, always be learning but recognise when you’re lucky and be thankful. I have a great family and friends. I like to achieve things outside of my ego, things that make a difference to others. We’re all connected to each other and kindness is the greatest gift you can ever give to anyone.

List three key words to describe yourself.
Creative, Restless, Empathetic

What would you like to achieve next?
I’d like to run a Global HERizon in Dublin – something like web summit did, where female leaders all over the world come to talk about female advancement.

Trayc Keevans's picture
Global FDI Director