Drive is on to strengthen the number of women appointed senior board members in Irish companies.
30% Club Ireland has welcomed the Balance for Better Business Review Group fourth report, saying that it achieved the goal of 30% as a “floor” in terms of gender balance on boards of major companies.
Figures for the percentage of women on the Boards of ISEQ 20 companies rose to 31%, up from 18% meaning that the top publicly listed companies in Ireland are well on track to achieve the 33% goal by the end of 2023.
“It should no longer be acceptable to try to link failure to move the dial to a perceived lack of talent, because we know the talent is there, and through this directory we aim to connect great women with enlightened boards”
For other listed companies, the percentage of women on Boards is now at 20%, hitting the target set for the end of 2021.
As of November 2021, Ireland had moved up to 12th position from 17th on the list of women on company boards for the largest companies in the EU27 illustrating the progress that has been made since Balance for Better Business was first established in 2018.
While the Government established Balance for Better Business initiative shows that the overall trends at board level are positive, concern remains around progress at senior leadership level.
“We very much welcome the significant progress made in this area over the last several years, and regard 30% as the floor and not a ceiling,” said Rachel Hussey, chair of the 30% Club Ireland.
“While there is advancement at board level, we need to see improvements in women being appointed to senior management teams, as this is where most practical impact can be affected within a business.”
30% Club Board Connections Initiative
The 30% Club Ireland also announced a new initiative to connect highly qualified women interested in board roles, with those responsible for improving gender balance in board appointments for listed, private and State bodies across Ireland.
Board Connections at the 30% Club is the new home for the model established in 2009 by the Board Diversity Initiative and involves a directory comprising the profiles of more than 150 senior women in business across Ireland, who are interested in taking on a board role. The directory is made available on request to Board Chairs, CEOs and search firms involved in the selection process for board roles. .
The initiative is designed to challenge some of the traditional excuses that gender balance can’t be achieved at board level because of the lack of suitable candidates. In 2015, when the 30% Club Ireland was launched, the female gender balance across the Boards of the ISEQ 20 stood at 12%. By 2021, through a concerted effort by Chairs, CEOs, and board actions the number had grown to 31%.
Vivienne Jupp, co-founder of the original Board Diversity Initiative said: “The Board Diversity Initiative has been an important resource since 2009 in assisting organisations identify senior women eminently capable of becoming board members. To date 170 board roles have been filled by women featured in the directory. In order to secure the future of the Directory and support the broad ambitions of the 30% Club, Anne-Marie Taylor and I are pleased that the 30% Club is now the new home of the directory. We look forward to supporting its continued success.”
While the 30% Club focus is on engaging the actions of Board Chairs and CEOs, the group also delivers on ground-up initiatives to improve talent pipelines including a Cross Company Mentoring programme in partnership with the IMI; an executive education scholarship programme in association with all Irish Universities; and a Board Ready programme run in conjunction with Deloitte. The Board Connections programme is the next step in this talent development roadmap.
“Many Irish companies have made significant progress on board gender balance through voluntary actions since we started in 2015, but there is more to be done,” Hussey concluded.
“It should no longer be acceptable to try to link failure to move the dial to a perceived lack of talent, because we know the talent is there, and through this directory we aim to connect great women with enlightened boards.”
Institute of Directors welcomes increased board diversity
Maura Quinn, CEO of the Institute of Directors in Ireland
“We need to address some of the barriers to more diversity in the boardroom, such as poor succession planning, unconscious bias and less access for women to the same networks of contacts as men”
Also welcoming the latest report from the Balance for Better Business group, Maura Quinn, chief executive of the Institute of Directors in Ireland, commented: “Board diversity – in all its forms – is not just ‘a nice to have’, it’s about being commercially effective. It allows the best mix of skills and expertise to be harnessed to drive long-term shareholder value and business growth.
“We need to address some of the barriers to more diversity in the boardroom, such as poor succession planning, unconscious bias and less access for women to the same networks of contacts as men. The findings in this latest Balance for Better Business report validate the setting-up of this Government-backed initiative in the first instance. It proves once again that gender diversity, in particular, in business in Ireland requires close and consistent monitoring.
“It is important to note that more transparent and planned succession planning and recruitment processes are required at board level. In a survey the IoD conducted amongst business leaders recently, one third (34%) of business leaders said their primary board does not have a succession plan in place to replace board members. This raises many flags, not least of which is the reality that a board with no succession plan is not future-proofing its business nor planning for board diversity, which is essential for an effective, high-performing board.
“Our survey also found that 45% of board members admit they were recruited as a result of a ‘direct approach from a member of the board/the board’ even though a clear majority (96%) of the respondents believes that diversity is important when recruiting new board members. The fact is, some boards are still relying on old networks for recruitment, which is not good for diversity or for effective succession planning.”