Ireland’s Top Boards Continue to Diversify ­ – Spencer Stuart Board Index 2023 Reveals

11th December 2023

Posted In: Be In The Frame

The fourth annual Ireland Spencer Stuart Board Index has revealed that Ireland’s top boards continue to diversify board leadership, with an increase in the number of women and non-Irish board members in the past year.

According to the 2023 Ireland Spencer Stuart Board Index, which provides a comprehensive review of governance practices in the largest 20 ISEQ companies according to market value on 30 April 2023,

Irish boards have seen a 12% increase in the number of women on boards over the past year, with women now making up 37% of the ISEQ 20 boards.

This increase means that the number of boards with at least 33% female representation has now increased to 80%.

This increase is largely driven by a number of new appointees over the past year – 65% of boards appointed a new director over the past year, of whom 67% were women.

However, while there has been a steady increase in the number of female non-executive directors (NEDs), women hold just 13% of all executive board positions. In the ISEQ 20, just two CEOs, three CFOs and one Chair position were held by women.

In addition to more gender diversity, boards are also seeing an increase in the number of non-Irish appointees; 48% of all new appointees over the past year are non-Irish, meaning that 33% of all directors are now non-Irish nationals, up 10% on 2022 figures. The UK and US are the most common source of non-Irish nationals in Irish boardrooms, with Austria, Australia, the Netherlands, and Sweden also represented in the ISEQ 20 boardrooms.

Launching the new report, Managing Partner of Spencer Stuart Ireland, Ruth Curran, said: “Ireland boards are continuing to diversify, which is a reflection of the continued internationalisation of Irish businesses, and the recognition that greater diversity in outlook improves the quality of decision-making, which is more critical than ever in the shifting board landscape of Ireland.

“It’s positive to see that ISEQ 20 boards as a whole are already surpassing the government target of 33% of women on boards, with 37% of female membership across ISEQ 20 boards. This represents an increase of 42% since our first Ireland Board Index in 2020, showing that these government targets and diversity initiatives are having an impact. However,

there are individual boards that still have a significant way to go, and there is still a need for more women in senior leadership positions in Irish boardrooms.”

This year’s Ireland Board Index also shows continued investment in ESG – 60% of the ISEQ 20 now have an ESG committee, which compares favourably with UK figures, where just 37% of FTSE 150 companies have such a committee. Furthermore, when it comes to the participation of senior board members, 83% of these committees have at least one such member represented, and 42% have two or more.

“ESG considerations now play a key role in shaping the future direction of businesses, and the continued growth of interest at an executive leadership level in ESG strategy reflects this importance. It is a trend that we expect will continue to increase in the coming years”, Ruth added.

The 2023 Ireland Board Index research was carried out at a time of significant change in the Irish board landscape – a number of former ISEQ 20 companies have delisted from Euronext Dublin, in favour of US listings. Since the research was carried out, Flutter Entertainment has also delisted, following in the footsteps of CRH, whose high-profile exit took place earlier this year.

Commenting on these trends, Ruth said:

“It’s certainly been a turbulent period for the Dublin Euronext exchange – we’ve seen a number of high-profile exits, with several more companies openly considering their own future on the Euronext.

“The preference for the US Stock Exchange over Ireland is clearly one of scale, with greater trading volumes and increased earning potential, but we must also admit that there are some other push factors at play, such as higher stamp duty costs on shares in Ireland, and the regulatory complexities associated with dual listings. Some big decisions lie ahead for Euronext Dublin and Irish policymakers to ensure that Ireland remains a viable and attractive option for companies examining their listing options”, she concluded.