by Richard Buckley, Editor, Business Eye

A new collaborative initiative which aims to empower future female leaders in education, was launched last night at an event in Danske Bank’s Belfast headquarters attended by schools, business people and local leaders. The SistersIN Leadership Programme has been developed specifically to help sixth form girls build their confidence and broaden their career perspectives.


Delivered over eight months, the programme includes bespoke leadership skills training, an in-school leadership project where pupils are able to gain real-life experience, and mentoring from leading females in business and society.

The programme has been developed by the charity SistersIN in partnership with foundation partners Danske Bank, the Education Authority and The James Kane Foundation, and collaboration partner, Women in Business.

The first phase kicks off in September through 10 schools across Northern Ireland, with ambitions to expand the programme to other schools in the future.

Speaking at the launch, Peter Dobbin, Principal of Assumption Grammar School Ballynahinch and Director of SistersIN called on businesses to get behind the initiative. He said:

“The SistersIN journey has the potential to transform the lives of young females by reaching them before they even start their careers – but to achieve this we need to work in partnership with businesses who can help us deliver and scale the programme. We’re looking for businesses who can provide mentors, job shadowing opportunities or funding support.

“It is our hope that, by bringing together some of the most influential people in industry, in education and in life in Northern Ireland, we can create and offer a unique experience to over 400 highly talented and ambitious girls who we have identified as potential future leaders.

“I’d like to welcome the Education Authority, Danske Bank and The James Kane Foundation as our Foundation Partners, and greatly appreciate their support.”

Dame Brenda King, Attorney General for Northern Ireland and Assumption Grammar alumnus, was the guest speaker at the launch event. She said:

“Building confidence and skills in our next generation of women as early as possible is key to developing our future female leaders. Working with real life local role models, the SistersIN initiative will demonstrate the wealth of options open to young women, providing them with the networks and practical skills to achieve their fullest potential. I strongly believe in the power of education to provide opportunity and transform lives and am hugely excited to see the programme expand to provide a bright future for all the participants.”

Aisling Press, Managing Director of Personal Banking at Danske Bank and Assumption Grammar alumnus added:

“I’m inspired by the vision and ambition of SistersIN to make a real difference in showing our girls that anything is possible and to play our part in enabling a greater representation of women into senior roles across diverse businesses and boards.

“I really believe SistersIN has the potential to scale and bring focus to leadership development, empowerment and belief as part of the education pathway and enable young women to thrive in their future careers. A key component is connecting the girls with business leaders to provide mentorship and build their network in the business community.”

So, we strongly encourage more local businesses to get involved and sign up to mentor the pupils to help them reach their full potential.”

The ten schools participating in 2022-23 are Ashfield Girls High School, Assumption Grammar School, Glenlola Collegiate, Our Lady’s Grammar School, St Cecilia’s College, St Genevieve’s High School, St Ronan’s College, Strathearn School, Thornhill College and Victoria College.

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Aisling Press, Managing Director of Personal Banking at Danske Bank; Dame Brenda King, Attorney General for Northern Ireland; and Peter Dobbin, Principal of Assumption Grammar School Ballynahinch and Director of SistersIN.

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