Progress Continues Towards Gender Balance on Boards Balance for Better Business Review Group Reveals

7th March 2023

Posted In: Newsflash

New figures from the Balance for Better Business Review Group, published today, reveal that Irish businesses are continuing to make progress in achieving gender balance at Board level, but more work needs to be done to increase female representation in key decision-making roles.

With the data released just ahead of International Women’s Day 2023, the figures from the Government established initiative show that

the percentage of women on the Boards of ISEQ20 companies is at 35%, exceeding the 33% target set for the end of 2023.

At 23%, Other Listed Companies are on track to meet their 25% target for female representation on Boards by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, all listed companies now have, on average, 32% female representation at Board level, pushing Ireland onto the list of top 10 countries in the EU27 for female Board representation for the first time.

However, the figures also point to slower progress in achieving gender balance at senior leadership level of Irish business.  At 25%, the ISEQ20 are significantly behind their target of 30% female representation by the end of the year.

At 21%, Other Listed Companies are also behind their 25% end of year target, with much ground to cover before the end of 2023.

In addition, with one exception, women continue to be underrepresented in key Board and leadership decision making positions.

While women make up half of all Senior Independent Directors, representation of women in Chair roles has fallen from 8.1% in September 2022 to 2.8% this month, with no female Chairs among the ISEQ20.

The figures also show that three in 36 CEOs across listed Irish companies are women, having fallen from 11.1% to 8.3% in March this year. Meanwhile, women make up only 14.8% of Chief Financial Officers among the same cohort of Irish business.

Commenting on the latest figures, Taoiseach and co-founder of Balance for Better BusinessLeo Varadkar said: “While it is encouraging to see steady progress when it comes to the number of women at the Board level of Irish business, it is less encouraging to see slower progress when it comes to key Board and senior leadership positions. The transition of two Chairperson roles from women to men at the end of 2022 and the lack of new female chairpersons being appointed has led to a significant drop in the number of women at Chairperson level.

Now, only one of the 36 listed companies has a female Chairperson, while representation of women at CEO level has also dropped from 11.1% in September of 2022, to 8.3% in March this year.

“From greater levels of innovation to enhanced financial returns and stronger ESG performance, there is a compelling business case for having an equal number of men and women in senior leadership positions.

“As we celebrate International Women’s Day this week, it’s crucial that Irish businesses redouble their efforts to remove the barriers to female progression within the workplace and take a more targeted and strategic approach to achieving gender balance at the highest levels of Irish business.”

Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Simon Coveney, T.D., said: “It’s heartening to see that progress continues to be made in women’s representation on boards, and that Ireland is now among the top 10 countries in the EU for female board representation.

“Seeing how far we’ve come also reminds us how far we still have to go, however, and it’s clear that we cannot afford to be complacent.

The slowdown in progress compared to six months ago, especially for senior leadership teams and key decision makers, underscores the importance of ensuring that progress is both sustainable and sustained.

This means building robust pipelines for talent and creating inclusive organisational cultures throughout companies. I hope that this International Women’s Day, we recognise the essential contribution of women in the workplace and redouble our efforts to achieve gender equality in Irish businesses and business leadership.”

Balance for Better Business Co-Chair Julie Sinnamon said: “The figures released by Balance for Better Business today show that progress continues to be made in terms of the number of women at Board level. This is a welcome development and speaks to the positive impact of a voluntary, business-led approach in achieving progress.

“However, it’s also clear that the ISEQ20 and other listed companies need to do more to ensure that progress does not plateau at the number of women on Boards.

That’s why we’re encouraging businesses to see gender balance as part of a wider cultural change within an organisation. By assessing organisational risk, establishing an ongoing dialogue and using a strategic plan to assess future leadership, businesses can make the necessary cultural and behavioural changes to see more women progress into key decision-making roles.”

Balance for Better Business Co-Chair Aongus Hegarty said:

“While progress to date at the Board level of Irish business is to be welcomed, there is still much more work to do to ensure that women can advance into senior leadership roles which are still predominantly held by men.

“At Balance for Better Business, we are calling on Irish businesses to address this slower pace of progress in a number of ways. These include increasing the use of objective measures of performance evaluation, providing opportunities for women to network and encouraging organisations to develop a pipeline of strategic leaders rather than concentrating on operational leadership. Through these specific actions, leaders can better ensure that women are not prevented from advancing into top roles on Boards and senior leadership teams while also reaping the many benefits of diverse and inclusive leadership.”

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