The Opportunity Costs of Exclusion, musings from InspireFest Day 1


I’ve been to my share of conferences and I’ve not always been just in the audience but one day out to #Inspirefest in Dublin yesterday will be the gift that will keep on giving until we meet again the same time next year. An agenda and impressive line-up of speakers that was so jam packed with ideas and ideals that left us with not just hopes but blueprints for a better future in work and in life. I literally don’t know where to start. Full disclosure, I arrived at 11.30 and didn’t catch all the talks so it’s not that I wasn’t impressed with the earlier speakers, alas I just missed them.

You can check out my random thoughts and notes to this wonderful day from my tweets but here are my

Key Take Aways:

  • The best presenters are storytellers, relaying their origins and personal journeys is far more effective and memorable than presenting their CVs. Alex Bernadotte’s journey from Haitian immigrant to Beyond12 – which is shaping a world where demographics won’t shape futures – is one of many such stories.
  • The geek in me will always say a good stat can go a long way, here are just a few:
    • 8% of lower income students will attain primary degrees compared to 82% of children from high income families (@abernadotte).
    • 40% of new @Accenture recruits worldwide are women (@EllynJShook1).
    • Businesses that give teams more control grow 4 times faster (@monicacparker).
    • There are more men called John than women as CEOs in top 500 companies (@Raju).
  • There is a difference between inherent versus acquired diversity and also being inclusive versus feeling included (@judithmwilliams).
  • Rethink your concept of what networking actually is – it’s every human interaction from your voicemail, your email signature to how you chat to people on the street. 3 tips: Build your expertise, your network and your bank account (@jkhoey).
  • We’re all tall 8 year olds. Ask yourself 3 questions over the coming days – Who are you? What do you do? Why does it matter? You can also learn a lot from Aristotle (@SNPcomm).
  • 3 tips from HATCH founder: 1) Unlearn ROI and focus on ROE – return on engagement; 2) Unlearn manic busyness and 3) Unlearn exerting too much control over your teams (@monicacparker).
  • Women use your voice to speak: “Please be the ‘token’ and be proud of it,” (@femgineer).
  • When was the last time you did something for the first time? (@raju).

Favourite Strand:

I really loved this power of social media strand whose stories were so rich compared to the dull social campaigns so prevalent among my peers in B2B. What is not to love about @WTFeminists mobilising a global movement, how social gave @minniemelange access to haute couture in a world literally not designed for her size and let’s not forget how @Dr_Black used social media @SavingBletchley.

In fact it was the @WTFeminists movement that resulted in the first ever staging of some of my own writing at
‘Be Inspired: What Makes Women Special’.


There was a low turn out for an amazing one woman show that tells the story of 23 year-old Echo is about to lose her virginity to a good-looking white hipster that she met on Craigslist.  


It was a wonderful day out and one of the speakers, I think maybe Christine Loscher from DCU, said she came up with a whole new plan for her future as she sat in the audience at last year’s event. I feel somewhat the same, I’ve made some large life/work decisions based on yesterday’s presentations, now to act on them.

Last word:

The problem with #InspireFest is that the event organisers, speakers and attendees all agree with the event’s theme and ethos – that’s why we were there – but the people who really need to hear these stories were not there. Words like equality, diversity, feminism are like dirty words from those on the outside refusing to look in – the reality is that the older 4th level educated white male is still in charge. We can share among ourselves all the richness and advantages than diversity in all it forms brings and we’ll see quotas, tokenism and small adjustments to hierarchical structures that will be huge in terms of the role model effect. It’s a start but it’s a slow burner. Alas, the minds we need to change won’t be swayed by goodwill or even positive ROI, they respond to fear mongering – knee jerk reactions to the war on terrorism or the fallout of Brexit. Was it Judith Williams that said in one of the panel discussions: “What are you missing with all this exclusion? Are you potentially losing out on the next killer app?”

They say if you can’t beat them, join them. Will we have to spread our message of diversity and inclusion through fear to reach those than don’t respond to inspiration? I think I’m paraphrasing someone great from my deep subconscious by concluding ‘if that’s the way to win, we’ve lost already’.

Thanks Ann O’Dea and all the crew for a truly inspiring festival.


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