Maine to Ireland: Empowering Women Panel Discussion

Apr 15, 2016 1:30:00 PM / by Stephanie Sadler

CAPAStudyAbroad_SP21_Dublin_Alum_ColeTaylorCole Taylor is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2016, sharing their story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A journalism and media writing major at Lasell College, they are studying abroad in Dublin this semester.

In this week's post, Cole shares their experience of attending the Empowering Women panel discussion with their Global Internship Program class.

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On Thursday, March 31st, my Global Internship Program class was fortunate enough to attend a panel discussion of five incredible women at the James Joyce Centre in Dublin. We asked questions and interacted on the subjects of empowering women in the workplace, hobbies, and life in general.

Each of these women are successful role models for young women who want to pursue careers as opposed to jobs. The panelists included: Susan Butler, Anne Driscoll, Alison Gilliland, Kyla O’Kelly, and Marian Quinn. They provided insight and top advice to all study abroad students.


Susan Butler is the Director of Dress for Success Dublin, a non-profit organization that helps women navigate successful interviews by providing appropriate clothes and teachable skills. Dress for Success was introduced to Ireland in 2011 and since then has supported over 1,200 women, 57% of whom have secured employment. Before Susan joined the Dublin Dress for Success team, she was a Service Designer for the Australian Centre for Social Innovation. She has recently been lecturing at the National College of Art and Design. Thanks to Susan, we were enlightened to know dreams come true if you work hard and believe in yourself.

Anne Driscoll is a Project Manager at the Irish Innocence Project which works to free the wrongfully convicted. Recently, Anne won the Salem Award in regards to her work. The project is located at Griffith College [where I attend college] and is the first project to combine Journalism and Law. Anne is an award-winning journalist, a social worker, and a writer for Teen People and CosmoGirl Magazine. Not only did she impress us with all of her connections, but she has also written for the New York Times, Boston Globe, People, and Parenting Magazine. The list of accomplishments and work Anne has done thus far is endless. She works closely with services provided to girls involved in court cases and sheds a lot of light on Dublin's youth. I found that I closely identified with Anne not only because she is a journalist and I am a Journalism major, but because she has a “rough around the edges” nature that I relate to. She is a strong advocate for women in sports and is forward about her beliefs. Anne was a pleasure to meet after the panel discussion. We talked about being women in the journalism field—about needing to be a strong writer to last. Anne was the only American on the panel which helped bring some familiarity to the discussion. Overall, she inspired me to keep pushing and taking risks. I remember she said, “Sometimes I am pushy and want to know details, but that is what sets me apart from others in the field.”


Alison Gilliland was another one of the women on the panel. Alison is a former primary school teacher who is now a full time trade union official with the Irish National Teachers’ Organization. She was elected as a Dublin City Councilor for the Beaumount/Donaghmede local election in 2014. She is a strong pursuer in the community and helps resolve or form solutions to national issues. It was very clear that Alison is drawn to politics and thinks like a politician without reservation. She has her own opinions and believes in walking the walk rather than talking the talk. In the mid-2000’s, Alison joined the Labor Party to push her support of equality and fairness where there is respect. Her activism is endless. She is an engaged woman fighting each day to show younger generations that strong women are needed in the workplace.



Director of Javelin Group Dublin, Kyla O’Kelly, writes case studies and has a core interest in metrics and insightful campaign reporting. The Javelin Group is one of Ireland’s leading integrated agencies. Kyla has much experience working on strategy and planning for global and Irish brands. Just last year, she led Digital, Advertising, Direct Marketing, Loyalty, and CSR campaigns that have impacted the market beyond a considerable amount. It was evident through discussion that Kyla adheres to facts and results. She was extremely down-to-earth in ways that reflected the importance of empowering women and she made it clear that ideas need to be delivered—and no should be afraid to speak up. Although she was not as aggressive in her dialogue as some of the other members in the panel, it was obvious that she believes in herself and wants nothing more than for us to do the same. It was moving to hear her speak as a strong woman but also a mother and wife who does not necessarily follow traditional roles.

Marian Quinn, the Chief Executive officer at The Childhood Developmental Initiative, has focused on children and young people as well as families in her line of work. She has worked in the youth service and Youthreach, the Health Service Executive, and the Department of Justice. Marian holds a Masters in Adult Education, Bachelors in Youth and Community Work, is a qualified Life and Business Coach, and is a board member of the Children’s Hospital Group. Marian is a blogger and uses her platform to reflect on experiences as well as share her thoughts on any given topic such as her children, networking, health, and well-being. My first impression of Marian was positive. She is firm, strong, humorous, witty, and thoughtful. I felt as though I related to her in the way that neither of us are 100% feminine. We both carry masculinity and build bridges in relationships based off humor and opinions. Her style was appreciated by the majority of the student group participating in the panel discussion.


Undoubtedly, we enjoyed the opportunity to converse with our future selves, if you will. We are the next generation of women who need to set examples, fight for what we believe in, and make changes in the workplace. In 2015, women in the US earned on average $0.81 to every $1 earned by men. According to the World Economic Forum 2014, the gender pay gap will not close until 2058. Honestly, my goal is to move that to a closer date. I want to be a change in the workplace for women who also juggle the same responsibilities as men. Women maintain careers in education, health care, training, etc. but are also involved in computer and mathematical occupations as well as architecture and engineering. Regardless of their occupation, women are still earning less in regards to financial aspects and emotional aspects. It is up to us to change that stereotype.

The Empowering Woman discussion gave most of us some sort of drive to be better and do better. We left with a sense of pride of being women in college—abroad in Ireland! I felt relieved hearing these women speak of their failures being more valuable than some of their successes because that is how I have felt in the past. I had connections to these women and found the panel discussion 100% worthwhile and beneficial to the future prospects who sat in that room. It is time for us to change the world, one powerful woman at a time.

Thanks Cole!

Cole's journey continues every Friday so stay tuned.

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Topics: Dublin, Ireland, Official Bloggers and Vloggers, Academics Abroad