Accenture’s Women on Walls at DCU unveils portraits of inspirational female leaders in celebration of International Women’s Day

Profiles five iconic leaders in STEM and includes Irish women Kay McNulty and Dame Kathleen Lonsdale

A collection of commissioned portraits of five inspirational females from the world of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) were unveiled at the virtual launch of Accenture’s Women on Walls at DCU in celebration of International Women’s Day (today, Monday, March 8th).

In collaboration with Accenture and Business to Arts, the portraits are in recognition of the ground-breaking work of Beatrice Alice Hicks, Katherine Johnson, Dr Marie Maynard Daly and Irish duo Kay McNulty and Dame Kathleen Lonsdale. 

All five are regarded as pioneers in STEM by making significant contributions in their specific discipline through outstanding research work, scientific breakthroughs and playing an instrumental role in bringing about cultural and social change.

Beatrice Alice Hicks was the First President of the Society of Women Engineers; Katherine Johnson was the first African-American woman to work as a NASA scientist; Dr Marie Maynard Daly was the first African-American woman in the US to earn a PhD in Chemistry; Donegal born Kay McNulty was one of the world’s first Computer Programmers while Dame Kathleen Lonsdale, who hailed from Newbridge, Co Kildare was the first female Professor of University College London (UCL).

The portraits were unveiled at a virtual event with DCU President Professor Daire Keogh, Managing Director and Head of Inclusion & Diversity at Accenture in Ireland Dr Michelle D. Cullen and Chief Executive of Business to Arts Andrew Hetherington. 

The launch featured a specially commissioned documentary which followed each artist as they worked on their portrait in the midst of COVID-19, giving viewers an in-depth look behind the scenes along with unique insights, details and stories about each of the subjects. A panel discussion, with all five artists, moderated by award winning journalist and broadcaster Dearbhail McDonald was also part of the event. 

This is the third chapter of Accenture’s Women on Walls, a campaign that seeks to make women leaders visible through a series of commissioned portraits that will create a lasting cultural legacy for Ireland. The campaign commenced in 2016 with the Royal Irish Academy, and a second chapter with RCSI was unveiled in 2019.

The DCU chapter was completed by five award-winning and renowned artists last year, and in the midst of COVID-19 which has impacted significantly on all sections of society, including the arts. DCU, renowned for its commitment to gender equality, is particularly pleased to support the initiative, to publicly commit to programming of the arts across the university and to pledge support to the arts sector as it charts its way through this global pandemic.

Commenting on the virtual unveil, the President of DCU, Professor Daire Keogh said, 

“These stunning portraits are a tribute to female trailblazers, who pushed out the frontiers of their respective fields. By celebrating these pioneers, we remind our students, and female students in particular, that ‘there are no limits’. Thanks to the extraordinary creativity of our acclaimed artists, these five women will continue to inspire future generations at DCU.”

Dr Michelle D. Cullen, Managing Director and Head of Inclusion & Diversity, Accenture in Ireland said, 

“We are delighted to unveil Accenture’s Women on Walls at DCU, the third chapter of the campaign that we created in 2016 in response to the very simple question, where are the women? Not only does Women on Walls enhance the visibility of women who shaped the world that we live in today, as a way to inspire young girls and boys, students, and society as a whole, but it continues to support Ireland’s arts sector. These astonishing portraits are a remarkable reminder of the vital role Ireland’s portrait artists play in shaping the future.”

Andrew Hetherington, Chief Executive of Business to Arts added,

“We are privileged to support Accenture’s Women on Walls at DCU portraiture commission. While COVID-19 has presented challenges for the completion of this edition of Women on Walls, they have been overcome, and we are proud to be able to unveil these five portraits created by some of Ireland’s leading portrait artists. We are equally proud to support DCU, who are continually building their reputation for programming of the arts. Commissioning artists to create new work is one of the vital ways businesses and other organisations can support the arts during and beyond the pandemic.”

The commissioned portraits will be temporarily installed in the Stokes Building at DCU before eventually moving to the Future-Tech building, under construction at the university’s Glasnevin Campus. This flagship building will be at the forefront of DCU’s international reputation for excellence in science, computing and engineering disciplines.

To view the virtual unveil of Accenture’s Women on Walls at DCU go to dcu.ie/womenonwalls

Follow the conversation at #womenonwalls

Beatrice Alice Hicks:(1919-1979) Leading Engineer. First President of the Society of Women Engineers, developed a gas density switch used in the USA’s Space Programme, including Apollo 11’s moon landing mission. 

Katherine Johnson:(1918-2020) Leading Mathematician, specialising in orbital mechanics. One of the first African American women to work as a NASA scientist. Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honour, 2017.

Dr Marie Maynard Daly: (1921-2003) First African American woman in the U.S. to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry. Disclosed the relationship between high cholesterol and clogged arteries. Committed to developing programs to increase the enrolment of minority students in medical school and graduate science programs. 

Dame Kathleen Lonsdale:(1903-1971) Leading X-ray Crystallographer. First female Professor of University College London (UCL). Elected as one of the first women Fellows of the Royal Society (FRS), 1945. First woman President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. 

Kathleen (Kay) McNulty: (1921-2006) Leading Mathematician and Computer Programmer. One of the world’s first computer programmers. One of only three female mathematics graduates in a class of 92 when she graduated in 1942. Responsible for inventing the subroutine. Inducted into the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame in 1997.

Bríd Higgins Ní Chinnéide (commissioned subject Dr Marie Maynard Daly) is a Dublin based figurative painter who works primarily with oil paint, drawing most of her inspiration from people, their faces and their bodies. Bríd studied painting at the St Petersburg Academy of Arts, Russia in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, where the emphasis of her studies was on academic portraiture and the human form. For the next decade she worked in the field of radio journalism, while living in the UK and US. Since 2016, Bríd has worked full-time as a practising artist, during which time she exhibited her work in both solo and group shows across Ireland and the UK.

Jackie Hudson Lalor (commissioned subject Katherine Johnson) is a Louth based professional visual artist with three distinctive strands to her practice: painting in oils, drawing and printmaking. Jackie worked as a graphic artist in Dublin, creating artwork for the flexographic print industry and later worked for Smurfit Display, producing artwork for point of sale display products. In 2018, Jackie collaborated with rock icon Suzi Quatro to produce two portraits of her in linocut print and she is currently collaborating with Del Palmer and author Nicola Pierce to paint their portraits in oils. For the last seven years, she has concentrated fully on her visual arts practice, exhibiting nationally and internationally.

Una Sealy (commissioned subject Dame Kathleen Lonsdale) is a Dublin-based figurative painter and member of the RHA (Royal Hibernian Academy). A graduate of IADT, she has had 11 solo exhibitions, including at the Molesworth Gallery, RHA Ashford Gallery, and a major mid-career review exhibition at Draíocht Arts Centre. Una was awarded the Irish Arts Review/Ireland-US Council Award for Outstanding Portraiture in 2011 and was one of twelve finalists exhibited at the National Gallery of Ireland in the inaugural Hennessy Portrait Prize in 2014. In 2015, she was the winner of the Adam's Award at the RHA Annual Exhibition. In 2019, Una was invited to exhibit and lecture in China to celebrate 40 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Jim Fitzpatrick (commissioned subject Kathleen (Kay) McNulty) is a Dublin-born and based, internationally-acclaimed artist known for his illustration, poster artwork and photography. Jim is renowned for his elaborately detailed work inspired by the Irish Celtic artistic tradition and best known for his iconic portrait of Che Guevara created in 1968. In 2011, Martin Kemp, Emeritus Professor of the History of Art at Oxford University, listed Jim’s Che Guevara image among the 11 greatest iconic images of all time. Jim’s work has been exhibited extensively both nationally and internationally.

Blaise Smith (commissioned subject Beatrice Alice Hicks) is a Co. Kilkenny-based figurative painter and member of the RHA (Royal Hibernian Academy). A graduate of NCAD, Blaise is adept at landscapes, portraits and still-lives. He has exhibited widely, with his work being held in many public and private Collections. In 2019, twenty of his portrait drawings of children were exhibited in Dublin Castle as part of the Ark’s Put Yourself in the Picture exhibition and, later the same year, his portrait entitled ‘My Parents’ was runner up in the National Gallery’s Zurich Portrait Prize. In 2018, he won the Irish Arts Review Portrait Prize with his much-celebrated group portrait entitled ‘8 Scientists’, a portrait of leading Irish female Scientists commissioned as part of the first iteration of Women on Walls at the RIA. 

Art handlers carry the portrait of Kay McNulty into the Stokes Building with (l-r) Dame Kathleen Lonsdale, Beatrice Alice Hicks, Katherine Johnson and Dr Marie Maynard Daly in situ.