Dr Katriona O’Sullivan addresses over 400 women at annual Construction Industry Federation International Women’s Day Summit today. 

08 Mar 2024



“International Women’s Day is for all of us who are really privileged to do more to include more diverse women.”

Dr Katriona O’Sullivan addresses over 400 women at annual Construction Industry Federation International Women’s Day Summit today.



“International Women’s Day is a day for all of us who are really privileged, privileged enough to be succeeding in ‘hard to reach’ places, to do more and to keep inspiring women to keep trying. We need to look around us and ask ‘what can we all do, to include more women and more diverse women to achieve great things?’ according to Dr Katriona O’Sullivan, Associate Professor and author.


Dr O’Sullivan was speaking to over 400 women from across Ireland’s Construction Industry who gathered in Dublin today Thursday, 07.03.24 at the annual ‘International Women’s Day Summit’ hosted by the Construction Industry Federation.


The conference featured female construction experts across housing, innovation and careers to discuss key issues and challenges within the industry including digital transformation, attracting and retaining talent and housing.


Emma May, CEO of Ardale, a leading property development company and Dr Katriona O’Sullivan, Associate Professor in Maynooth University and author of the award-winning biography ‘Poor’ were keynote speakers at the event.


The Construction Industry Federation also used the summit as an opportunity to celebrate some of the women who were among the first female members and leaders within the Federation.


The morning began by honouring Bridie Moran, Rose Wright, Catherine Reynolds and Patsy Supple who were among the founding members of the Business Development Network within the Federation, which was established 25 years ago to promote the inclusion of women within the construction sector. At the time Bridie, Rose and Catherine were already pioneers within the construction industry running construction companies and representing builders across Ireland since the 1980s in an industry, which at the time was almost exclusively composed of men. The women received a very warm welcome.


Addressing attendees at the Conference Joe Conway, President of the Construction Industry Federation said:


“This conference is a testament to the highly accomplished experts, including female CEO’s, engineers, and project teams within the construction industry. But we know we have a lot more to do to attract more women into the sector. The most recent CSO Labour Force Survey figures for Quarter Four 2023 note that just 7%  people employed in construction are female. When it comes to trades, just 3% of craft apprentices registered in 2023 were female. Yet in CIF’s Quarter One Construction Outlook Survey for 2024, 76% of respondents cited recruiting staff as their biggest concern. The construction sector must attract many more female employees. This is of significant strategic importance for the future of the industry.”


Addressing delegates, Dr. Sarah Ingle, the newly appointed Construction Industry Register Ireland (CIRI) Registrar said:


“I have found that it is very important to have other women to work with. As women, we need support from other women – as mentors, as coaches, as cheerleaders, and most often, to provide a listening ear in the workplace.”


The summit included three lively panel discussions on ‘housing and sustainability’ including Isabelle Gallagher, Head of Development, Quintain, Kate Rhatigan, Director, Winterbrook LTD, Helen Byrne, Senior Sales Manager, Glenveagh and Aoife Murray, Head of Investment, Cairn.


The ‘inspiring inclusion’ panel featured Lisa Duignan, Real Estate Operations Director, Turner & Townsend, Catherine Greene, Senior Quantity Surveyor, Ardmac, Helena Kiernan, HR Manager, Bennett Construction, Jan Glynn, HR Director, PJ Hegarty & Son.


The ‘inspiring innovation’ discussion included contributions from Elaine Harrington, Continuous Improvement Manager, Suir Engineering, Claire Cox, Quality Manager, John Paul Construction, Catarina Dias, Civil Engineer, Glanua, Kay Springall, Head of Engineering, Dornan


Speaking at the event Emma May, CEO of Ardale spoke about her life experience and about her own company Ardale increasing its participation of women from 2% to 25% in recent years. According to Emma:


“As women we juggle so much in our lives and I know we are capable of great things. There is no doubt that as women we are a minority in the construction industry and we won’t change that here today. But this is a great industry, I am very proud to work in construction and I hope my daughter joins the sector in the future.”


Addressing attendees Dr Katriona O’Sullivan said:


“I’m here today because I’m a woman succeeding in a space and in a life she wasn’t meant for. I really rail against the idea ‘you can’t be it if you can’t see it’ when it comes to construction. Girls are still being told implicitly and explicitly that they can’t work in these types of jobs. The slogan should be ‘tell a girl she can be it, over and over again. We need to look around and ask who isn’t here and how can we find them to get them here?”


Closing the summit  Hubert Fitzpatrick, Director General of the Construction Industry Federation said “The Construction Industry Federation, as an organisation, has made significant strides in recent years on gender balance, with 50% of our senior management team now female. We look forward to supporting women across the wider sector as they pursue careers in construction and contribute to building Ireland.”



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