Some 90pc of Irish organisations now have supporting gender diversity initiatives in place, according to a new report by the 30% Club.

The research report – Women in Management – was presented to over 200 senior business leaders at Dublin Castle this morning (6 February 2020), at the annual Chairs and CEOs event hosted by the 30% Club Ireland.

The new research shows that while in 2015 just 16pc of organisations surveyed had a formal diversity and inclusion policy in place, now 46pc have such a policy.

“While these changes are welcome, it is clear that while women are doing better at lower management levels, progress at the higher levels remains hard to change”

92pc of respondents have some initiatives related to diversity and inclusion although the extent differs between organisations.

In particular, the prevalence of modern workplace supports and better management around family absence has grown since 2015. Policies and supports that have become more popular include top ups for maternity leave, top ups for paternity leave, and agile working programmes.

For organisations more advanced in their diversity journey there has been the addition of initiatives such as maternity coaching, employee resource networks, formal mentoring/sponsorship/career progression programmes for women and career returner programmes.

Setting of gender targets flounders in Irish organisations

However, despite the progress, the setting of gender targets is still rare and was evidenced by less than 20pc of respondents, but there is progress in the use of measurement to track better balance within recruitment, performance and salary processes.

The research, led by 30% Club Steering Committee member Anne Marie Taylor, was conducted late last year and represents the views of 350 organisations of various sizes, activities and locations.

This is the final report of a five-year series of reports by the 30% Club on women in management.

The 30% Club partnered with IBEC and DCU to conduct the survey.

Within the organisations surveyed 48pc believe opportunities for women within their organisations have improved in the past five years. However, 46pc believe they stayed the same.

Women are making inroads into senior management hierarchy

Women continue to make inroads into the management hierarchy, with percentages of women at all levels increasing since 2015. The 30% Club data from 2015-2018 shows the number of women in the lower levels of management increased from 30pc to 45pc over that period; the proportion at executive director level rose from 23pc to 30pc, and at CEO level from 14pc to 18pc.

“Flexible working arrangements can be undermined by an organisation’s culture if availing of them is perceived as career limiting, or if the practice is not adopted by senior role models as well”

“While these changes are welcome, it is clear that while women are doing better at lower management levels, progress at the higher levels remains hard to change,” according to Rachel Hussey, chair of the 30% Club Ireland.

Recruitment and retention are the key areas of focus across all respondents with some 43pc say they are now tracking the language of job descriptions and advertisements for gender bias, compared to 12pc five years ago.

Flexible start and finish times are available in 88pc of organisations surveyed, with part-time work available in 80pc.  Working from home can be availed of in 71pc.

“The ability to have more choice and flexibility in work patterns continues to come through our surveys as the key requirement from the workforce, both male and female, and is becoming an essential part of modern work practices”, said Hussey.

“However, while the data is quite encouraging, it refers only to the availability of such arrangements rather than their take-up. Flexible working arrangements can be undermined by an organisation’s culture if availing of them is perceived as career limiting, or if the practice is not adopted by senior role models as well.”

The 2019 survey date was compiled in partnership with Ibec.

Commenting, Ibec CEO Danny McCoy, said: “There is a clear imperative to achieve greater gender balance and inclusion in the workplace. This latest body of research indicates that while there has been progress in this regard over the last five years, there is still much to do.”

The research is important evidence of the growing commitment by Irish business to gender balance for improved business outcomes, but it needs to be a template for all.

According to Hussey: “Studies consistently identify a strong association between gender diversity and a range of positive organisational outcomes.

“Benefits include increased profitability, improved corporate governance, increased innovation and creativity and higher-quality decisions and problem-solving”, Ms Hussey said.

Written by John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 6 February, 2020

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