06 March, 2024 | Posted by Michelle Hogan

'Empowered women empower women' - Inspiring Inclusion in the Business of Fashion this International Women's Day

‘Empowered women empower women’ – Inspiring Inclusion in the Business of Fashion this International Women’s Day The theme

The theme of International Women’s Day 2024 is #InspireInclusion.

International Women's Day is a global movement which aims to create a world that is diverse, equitable and inclusive.

Portobello Institute was founded by Delia Lyons in 1981, and today, her daughter Rebekah Lyons continues to make education accessible.

As a female-led further and higher education provider, we are looking inward this International Women's Day to celebrate the women who make Portobello Institute the wonderful, supportive, nurturing and inclusive learning environment it is.

Q&A with Sinead Kelly - Business of Fashion Lecturer at Portobello Institute

What is your role at Portobello Institute? 

I am a lecturer in the Business of Fashion department at Portobelo Institute, where we have degrees that are paving the way for new-age fashion professionals who want to diversify into Fashion Buying and Merchandising, or Fashion Business Management. 

I am a direct contact for my student groups weekly. We have lectures throughout the week, both in person and online for the varied learning schedules we have in place.  

Having worked in the fashion industry for over ten years now, I endeavour to marry academic learning with practical applications, always vying for growth and experience for the students.

I aim to mimic the working world within the classroom, empowering and equipping the students with current industry practices so that they can proceed with confidence throughout their academic journeys and onward to the workplace.  

My roles and responsibilities would be to research and prepare my classes; lead a variety of modules from year to year; nurture and inspire the students; and prepare them for their future careers.  

How long have you worked at Portobello Institute and how would you describe your journey here?  

I have been a lecturer in Portobello for the past five years. I thoroughly enjoy my days spent in the college. Year after year, I feel like I have grown alongside the students I teach. Within my fashion career, working in Portobello is just one aspect, and I immensely cherish it, as I am truly passionate about paving the way for future fashion-focused students to find their way in the industry. If I can contribute to and inspire just one student to pursue their dream of working in this field, that is a sure win. 

The theme of International Women’s Day 2024 is ‘Inspiring Inclusion’, can you share some thoughts on what this means to you as part of your role at Portobello? 

Inspiring inclusion is something I stand by every day, no matter if it’s a professional or personal situation, there is a place for everyone to be recognised and included. By adopting an inclusive approach, we stand to learn more, innovate better, create more vastly, and generate a new landscape. 

Being a woman, working in education and working in a female-led environment – how has this supported you to retain your career and deal with life as it happens? 

Working in a female-led space is immensely important to me. Honestly, we just get things done by being centred around the same ‘why.’ Knowing that likeness, support and guidance among the female-led environment in Portobello is something that is a testament to the Institute. It is truly special.  

Do you have examples of times when you saw inclusion making a positive impact on students and/or colleagues? 

Without pinpointing times, we are consistently embodying inclusion within the fashion department. It is part of our DNA, and that is something we are really proud of. 

Why is inclusion important in education? 

Education in itself is a tool of empowerment in realising your personal goals and aspirations. There is space for everyone in my classroom. With fashion being an exciting, fast-paced, ever-changing landscape, inclusion on an educational level forges a path for better inclusion on a career level thereafter. 

In your experience, how can education play a role in empowering women? 

Fashion, as we know it, is a majority female-oriented industry. Not many industries can stand to that fact. We embody that in the classroom as our numbers lie in the majority of students being women. Education and empowerment at this level are of immense importance not just for now, but long-term for lifelong success in this arena.  

How can inclusion, flexibility, and accessibility to education support and empower women in their education journeys? 

Empowered women, empower women. Notions of inclusion, flexibility and accessibility only go hand-in-hand from this point onwards. Let’s aim to empower and inspire, the rest will follow and for all the right reasons. 

Giving Back

At Portobello Institute we understand the importance of giving back by having a small in-house charity we set up called 'Dochas Leanai'. 

College director, Denise Flood, travels to India and Belarus twice a year with a team of about 15 individuals, across staff and students. Devoted work includes training Montessori teachers and setting up Montessori schools in slum areas in Pune India.

The charity is also heavily involved in supporting training in a girl's rescue centre and a small school for profoundly hearing-impaired children. This involves self-defence training in a community project and sports and arts and crafts camps in a slum school in Pune.

Read more inspiring International Women's Day interviews here.

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