Sinéad McSweeney, IMAGE Businesswoman of the Year 2019: 'We need to rethink "lean in" and talk more about leaning out'

  • by IMAGE

IMAGE Businesswoman of the Year, Sinéad McSweeney, thinks women should reconsider the advice to 'lean in'.


Sinead McSweeney, managing director of Twitter Ireland, was named overall IMAGE Businesswoman of the Year 2019 at a black-tie event in Dublin’s Clayton Hotel last night.

Sinéad has been a key leader in the Twitter team since she joined the company in 2012 before taking over as MD in 2016. She is also Twitter’s vice president of public policy in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Prior to Twitter, Sinéad was director of communications for An Garda Síochána from 2007 to 2012, director of media and public relations for the Police Service of Northern Ireland between 2004 and 2007, as well as adviser to two attorney generals.

Accepting her award, Sinéad thanked her team at Twitter saying, “leading Twitter Dublin is something special”.

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“We walk the road with each other not just to hit targets… but to make sure people can be themselves and do their very best work. I am particularly grateful to them for their support in the last six months.”

She also thanked the IMAGE Media team, saying: “We support each other – women are at our best when we lift women up and that’s why I love IMAGE so much… IMAGE as a group of individuals are about lifting people up, not tearing people down, looking for the best in people... They do it in a way that is so genuine. I admire the business sense that in a world where people were worried about what was happening to print, they literally looked at digital and said ‘I see your disruption and raise you our grit, our innovation, our determination and our energy’.”

Sinead dedicated her award to two men: her husband Noel Whelan, who sadly passed away in July and who always said “of course you can and why don’t you try?”, and her son.

Here she shares the best — and worst — business advice she has ever received.

The best…

“This is a mantra I have, which I’ve accumulated from different pieces of advice: Always work with people from whom you’re learning. Never work for somebody that you don’t respect. And if you don’t like what you’re doing, change – 40 hours a week is too much of your life to spend unhappy.”

And the worst…

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“It’s not so much that it’s the worst advice but I personally think we need to rethink ‘lean in’ and I think we need to talk more about leaning out. Because there is still this sense that we have to be the very best mother and the very best housekeeper and the very best baker while also ‘leaning in’ and doing boardroom meetings and everything else. I think the issue isn’t necessarily that women don’t lean in  — it’s just that they can’t let go of what’s behind them.”

Photo: Sinéad McSweeney pictured with IMAGE Media CEO, Clodagh Edwards (Kieran Harnett) 

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