Share of female CEOs in Ireland rises to 19%

Proportion of female chief executives in large firms in Ireland jumps from less than 14% to 19% in last two years

The proportion of female chief executives in large companies in Ireland has jumped from less than 14 per cent to 19 per cent in the past two years.

The latest Gender Balance in Business survey published by the Central Statistics Office on Monday shows that there has been an increase in the proportion of females in almost all senior business roles between 2021 and 2023.

Close to 700 companies with 250 or more employees were surveyed online by the CSO, 69 per cent of which completed the survey. The results comprise about 6,500 people who are in senior executive positions or are board members.

The largest increase was among female chief executives. In 2023, 19 per cent of chief executives were female, up from 13.4 per cent in 2021, and 11.5 per cent in 2019.


The proportion of female chairpersons of large businesses in Ireland rose to 18.7 per cent in 2023, up from 14 per cent in 2021 and just 7.4 per cent in 2019.

The survey showed a continuing decline in the proportion of females in chief financial officer roles. The proportion of female chief financial officers in 2023 was 25.7 per cent, down from 28.1 per cent in 2021, and 29.7 per cent in 2019.

Among all senior executives (those at the highest level of management of an organisation) in large companies in Ireland, 30.4 per cent were female in 2023, an increase from 29.7 per cent in 2021 and 28.3 per cent in 2019.

The other service activities sector had the highest proportion of female senior executives in 2023, at 43.5 per cent.

The sector includes professional membership organisations, trade unions, religious and political organisations, repair of computers and household goods, and those providing personal services such as laundering, hairdressing, beauty and physical wellbeing.

The construction sector had the lowest level of female representation in senior executive roles in 2023 at 13.4 per cent, but this has increased from 9.5 per cent in 2021.

About a quarter of board directors in Ireland were female in 2023, up from 21.8 per cent in 2021, and 19.6 per cent in 2019.

Almost three in 10 (29.4 per cent) enterprises had 40 per cent or more female representation at senior executive level in 2023, while 24.7 per cent of companies had at least 40 per cent female representation on their boards of directors.

In 2023, four in 10 enterprises had set targets for the representation of females in senior executive roles.

Chambers Ireland’s chief executive Ian Talbot welcomed the “significant improvements” since 2021, in particular among woman in chief executive and chairperson roles.

“Seeing the number of women-led businesses rise from being only one in seven in 2021 to almost one in five in 2023 demonstrate how quickly change can happen when businesses and boards prioritise female appointments,” he said.

However, he said that the report demonstrates “how much further we still have to go”, and that every business needs to develop a culture that is willing to develop the talent of women within the organisation, and recognise the leadership potential of women from outside the organisation.

“One of the greatest constraints on our economy is the talent that has been overlooked merely because its possessor is a woman, we must not keep making that mistake,” he said.

Ellen O'Regan

Ellen O’Regan

Ellen O’Regan is an Irish Times journalist.