Serious gender imbalance persists on Irish boards

A serious gender imbalance persists at the top level of businesses in Ireland, the latest Balance for Better Business report reveals.

In its second report reiterating its call for Irish companies to rapidly address the low levels of female representation on their boards, Balance for Better Business said that while “heartening” progress has been made more needs to be done.

The latest report from the Irish Government established initiative tasked with examining the gender mix at the top of Irish business reveals a serious gender imbalance persists at the top level of businesses in Ireland.

“It is heartening to see that the percentage of women on Irish publicly listed Boards has increased overall, but listed companies outside the ISEQ 20 must move swiftly to address the deficit”

According to the latest report, ISEQ 20 companies reached 25.3pc female directors by 1 September 2019, achieving the interim target (of 25pc) set for the end of 2020.

However, virtually no progress has been made among the other listed companies (12.1pc on 1 March to 12.4pc on 1 September).

Meanwhile, despite a target of no all-male boards listed on Euronext Dublin by the end of 2019 set in May, no change was made by 1 September.

Separately, the Balance for Better Business report extends its analysis and target-setting to the leadership teams of listed businesses and to the boards and leadership teams of large private companies.

Gender-balanced leadership

“If Ireland is to continue to succeed as a modern, outward-looking European country, we need to address the challenges and opportunities of moving to gender-balanced leadership,” urged Brid Horan, co-chair of Balance for Better Business.

“It is time to fully utilise the talents, education and experience of all our people”

“While recent improvements have narrowed the gap between Ireland and the EU average at board level, we continue to be ranked 17 of the EU-28. Balance for Better Business is calling for genuine change and collaborating with those working to support female participation on boards and in executive leadership. It is time to fully utilise the talents, education and experience of all our people.”

Her colleague Gary Kennedy, co-chair of Balance for Better Business said that it is clear that better gender balance on boards and executive teams leads to improved business outcomes and performance, including profitability and return on equity.

“This is driven by the more effective use of the entire talent pool, diversity of thinking and innovation, enhanced responsiveness to consumer requirements and improved governance. All businesses should actively adopt a targeted and planned approach, reflecting their strategic objectives and organisational structures.”

Since the first Balance for Better Business report, the overall percentage of women on Irish publicly listed Boards has increased from 16.4pc to 19.1pc (based on 1 March and 1 September 2019 data), a further increase from 14pc a year earlier.

The new report reveals that, on average, ISEQ 20 companies reached 25.3pc female directors by 1 September 2019, achieving the Balance for Better Business interim target (of 25pc) set for the end of 2020. However, the report also discloses that virtually no progress has been made among the other listed companies (12.1pc on 1 March to 12.4pc on 1 September).

Similarly, the report notes that despite a target of no all-male boards listed on Euronext Dublin by the end of 2019 set in May, no change was made by 1 September (Datalex plc appointed a female director in October). Balance for Better Business has re-iterated their call for an immediate end to all-male boards.

The report was launched by the Minister for State for Equality, Immigration and Integration David Stanton, TD.

“I am pleased to see that progress is being made but the fact remains that serious gender imbalance persists at the top level of businesses in Ireland,” Stanton said.

“It is heartening to see that the percentage of women on Irish publicly listed Boards has increased overall, but listed companies outside the ISEQ 20 must move swiftly to address the deficit. Likewise, the days of all-male boards must now come to an end. I welcome the fact that Balance for Better Business is extending its analysis to leadership teams as gender-balanced management is needed to realise the full business benefits and achieve real cultural change.”

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

Published: 11 December, 2019