Caroline Casey wows the audience as BPW marks quarter century

Guest speaker Caroline Casey, founding CEO of Kanchi, with Michelle Murphy, President of BPW Galway, at the BPW Galway 25th Birthday Summer Lunch at The Ardilaun hotel on Friday. Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

Guest speaker Caroline Casey, founding CEO of Kanchi, with Michelle Murphy, President of BPW Galway, at the BPW Galway 25th Birthday Summer Lunch at The Ardilaun hotel on Friday. Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

The annual BPW summer lunch which took place in the Ardilaun Hotel last Friday, and was kindly sponsored by RDJ Glynn, certainly was a unique occasion as BPW Galway celebrated 25 years since being founded in Galway by Breda Ryan and her committee, and has gone from strength to strength since then. On that morning Breda and John Ryan unveiled a plaque to commemorate the establishment of the club.

Imelda Tierney, Partner with RDJ spoke of their delight in sponsoring this wonderful event and their association with BPW Galway over the past number of years.

RDJ Glynn is the West of Ireland's largest commercial law firm and, as part of Ronan Daly Jermyn, is a leading Irish law firm offering specialist legal advice in diverse areas including banking, commercial transactions, property, general and commercial litigation, employment law, alternative dispute resolution and insolvency - the Chambers Europe Client Service Award for Ireland 2010.

Guest speaker Caroline Casey, who founded Kanchi (formerly The Aisling Foundation ) and the O2 Ability Awards, inspired the audience with her witty and informative address highlighting the many challenges she faced through her own career from discovering that she was legally blind at the age of 17 as she was diagnosed with ocular albinism and continuing through her career, despite her disability to secure and hold a successful high profile management consultant role in Accenture for a number of years.

However her sight deteriorated and there came a time she had to accept that she could no longer continue in the role in Accenture. Whether or not you are disabled, Ms Casey reminds us that asking for help is difficult for any one of us. When she admitted to her boss and to herself that she needed help, she was finally able to pull herself out of a situation she wasn’t truly happy in and discover her true calling.

From the wonderful moulding she received from her parents early in her childhood - her resilience and ‘can-do’ attitude ensured she dusted herself down, followed her dreams and travelled across the world which involved taking an elephant ride across India. This gave time to think about what direction to take in her life – and she asked how could she embrace her disability while providing an understanding to employers that disability can be embraced openly so the o2 Ability Awards were created by Ms Casey to recognize businesses for best practice in the inclusion of people with disabilities, both as customers and as employees. The awards are all about thinking differently – in an uncertain world, thinking differently and adapting to change through innovation helps organisations to not only survive, but thrive.

Ms Casey has received several high profile awards in recognition of her work worldwide including becoming the first Irish person to be appointed a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum, and was awarded an honorary doctorate from NUI Ireland. She informed the audience about how the concept of the O2 Ability awards had captured imaginations across Europe and she has recently signed a multi-million contract to roll out similar awards in Europe.

What carried Ms Casey through most of her life was the belief her parents instilled in her, the belief in her ability (not disability ) and her potential. When she harnessed that self-belief again, she discovered what she was passionate about and achieved much more than she could have ever imagined. She lives by the golden rule that ‘if you truly believe, and I mean believe from the bottom of your heart, you can make change happen’.

Ms Casey said she was so impressed by the women attending the event and commented that the atmosphere was like none she experienced before. She noted that those attending were the best dressed women she had ever seen at a business lunch and promised she would return for a shopping trip to Galway in the very near future.

Caroline received a standing ovation and provoked questions from the audience about her parents approach to coaching her through her disability to follow her dreams — the lunch concluded with a vote of thanks to this witty and extremely inspirational speaker.

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