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Cora Sutton-Smith, our 30% Club Diploma in Corporate Governance Smurfit Scholarship recipient for 2020

  • Date: Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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Smurfit Executive Development Announce Winner of 30% Club Diploma in Corporate Governance Scholarship

Alongside the growing emphasis on education and training of company directors and governors is increased emphasis on diversity in boardrooms. Following the banking crisis, where male testosterone was partly blamed for the governance failures, the Stock Exchange’s Corporate Governance Code added forceful material on the need for diverse boards, including gender and race. That Code advocates diversity as a means of avoiding “groupthink”, encouraging different approaches and experiences around boardroom tables. Under the State Code, due regard for diversity is required in making State boards appointments, with chairs and Government departments required to consider the benefits of diversity on boards, including gender diversity.

It was therefore appropriate that UCD Smurfit Executive Development, in association with the 30% Club, offers one scholarship per annum to a female student on the UCD postgraduate executive-education Diploma in Corporate Governance. The 30% Club was launched in January 2015 and has the objective of improving gender balance at all levels in Irish business, with a focus on gender balance on boards of directors and in senior executive leadership positions.

To date four scholars have completed/are completing the programme. The first recipient of a 30% Club scholarship in 2015 was Stephanie Manahan, CEO of the not-for-profit charity, the Central Remedial Clinic. Stephanie was an ideal candidate for the scholarship, as she assumed her role following serious governance failures at CRC. She has done a magnificent job improving CRC governance and management, as examination of CRC’s annual reports (available on the CRC website) demonstrate.

The second recipient of a 30% Club scholarship was Katherine Licken. It was a hectic year for Katherine, as during her studies at UCD Smurfit School, she became Secretary General of the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

Governance in the public sector has unique features. Katherine’s deep understanding of corporate governance, and her appreciation of the differences between corporate governance and public-sector governance, will be a much-needed asset to her in her role as secretary general.

The 2017 scholarship recipient, Niamh Duddy, is company secretary of the Irish branch of Investec Bank plc. Niamh brought a wealth of experience into the classroom, from arguably the most regulated sector of the economy, where appreciation of the importance of corporate governance is highest. Niamh’s learnings from the programme now helps her to carry out her onerous governance role of company secretary to even better effect.

The 2018 scholarship recipient, Georgina Gray is an Inspector in An Garda Síochána.  Georgina brings technical expertise and knowledge which supports and influences the governance framework and processes within An Garda Síochána to the classroom.  Her learnings from the Diploma in Corporate Governance will enhance her ability to carry out her duties as an Inspector in a rapidly changing environment for the Irish Police Force. 

The 2019 scholarship recipient,  Sinead Ryan, brought a wealth and variety of experience to the programme., from her experience as First Secretary, Press Officer, Private Secretary and Deputy Ambassador roles with the Department of Foreign Affairs both at home and abroad.  Subsequently she held the role of Director of Internationalisation at Trinity College and more recently that of Secretary/CEO with the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland. 

We are delighted to announce the 2020 scholarship recipient, Cora Sutton-Smith, whose hands-on experience in the construction sector will further enhance the profile of participants on this prestigious programme.  Cora is a director of Cronin and Sutton Consulting Engineers. Following her Microbiology degree, Cora commenced as a site administrator, leading to project manager and finally as director with a full portfolio of company administration across a range of functions. Cora, already actively involved in Women in Construction and Women in Engineering initiatives, looks forward to representing the principles and aspirations of the 30% Club in the traditionally male dominated construction sector.

We are very proud of our 30% Club scholarship recipients, and of their range of backgrounds from not-for-profit, to Government department to private sector financial services and non-executive director positions.  Each class comprises participants with a diverse range of expertise. Executive development involves learning from the lecturers on the programme, and even more valuable, peer-to-peer learning, from the depth and range of expertise in each class of senior, experienced executives.

For more information about our Diploma in Corporate Governance, please contact 

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