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Bank of Ireland Chief Francesca McDonagh addresses Women in Leadership at DCU
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Bank of Ireland Chief Francesca McDonagh addresses Women in Leadership at DCU

Group Chief Executive of Bank of Ireland, Francesca McDonagh, highlighted the importance of self-belief and the ability to accept feedback when embracing leadership roles.

Speaking as part of DCU’s Mary McAleese Women in Leadership lecture series, Ms McDonagh spoke about her own personal leadership journey and the issues she has encountered along the pathway to leadership.

In a wide-ranging and informative fireside chat with DCU President, Professor Brian MacCraith, Ms. McDonagh spoke about her time on HSBC’s Graduate Programme being where she found her place in the world:

“I enjoyed my time in University but it wasn’t my time... it was when I joined an investment banking programme I ‘got in to my groove’ in terms of where I wanted to be.”

When asked if she had a mentor or sponsor throughout her career to date, Ms McDonagh said:

“I didn’t think I had, but in hindsight I did, I just didn’t call them mentors. They were senior people who had more experience than me, who I admired and could pick up the phone to on a regular basis. She advised members of the audience to “find someone you respect and admire and buy them a cup of coffee once a month.”

Francesca spoke about Bank of Ireland’s objective to reach 50:50 gender balance in management and leadership appointments by 2021.

“The reason why that’s not today is we do not have the women in the pipeline at the moment.”

“When it comes to gender equality, measurement and accountability are key. If you don’t set a target, it doesn’t get done necessarily. Why shouldn’t it be 50;50? Meritocracy does not result in male only teams - if you can’t get there naturally, interventions - whether it be quotas or targets - are necessary to drive change.”

She highlighted the crucial role of confidence in leadership roles and acknowledged imposter syndrome as something she has experienced a various stages throughout her career: “ I think it's reasonably health to question yourself… as long as it's not debilitating, it’s a perfectly natural feeling."

On embracing leadership roles and following successful career paths as her own, Ms McDonagh had a final piece of advice for the female staff in the audience:

“I don’t have the answers and I’m still on my own path, journey and recalibrating all the time. I think self-belief is really important and having a few people in your life who really give you that backbone or confidence (or ideally to find it in yourselves). The belief that your good enough, take on the risk of failing, apply for jobs even if you don’t think you’ll get it. Being very receptive to feedback (even from people who you know don’t like you) and self correcting.”