Iseq 20 companies slow at appointing women to top executive roles, boardroom survey finds

Women hold just 13% of all executive board positions in Iseq 20 firms, while number of women non-executive director roles is on the increase

Glanbia group chief executive Siobhan Talbot

The top 20 companies on the Irish stock market increased women members on boards by 12 per cent in the past year to beat a Government diversity target, according to a new report.

However, the fourth annual Iseq 20 boards survey, carried out by executive search firm Spencer Stuart, found that Irish companies continue to be slow at promoting women to top executive roles.

The report, which measured board representation at the end of April compared to the same date last year, found that women made up 37 per cent of board members of Iseq 20 companies at the end of the reporting period.

The increase means 80 per cent of companies now have at least 33 per cent women representation, which is the Government’s target for the end of 2023.


While there has been a steady increase in the number of women non-executive directors (NEDs), women hold just 13 per cent of all executive board positions, it found. In the Iseq 20, just two chief executives, three chief financial officers and one chair position were held by women.

However, the two women chief executives, Siobhán Talbot at Glanbia and Margaret Sweeney at Ires Reit, are each planning to retire from their roles next year.

Almost half of all new appointees over the past year are non-Irish, meaning that 33 per cent of all directors are now from overseas, up 10 per cent 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, the report said.

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“It’s positive to see that Iseq 20 boards as a whole are already surpassing the Government target of 33 per cent of women on boards,” said Ruth Curran, managing partner of Spencer Stuart’s Dublin office.

“This represents an increase of 42 per cent 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.”

Separately, a new report from Banking & Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI) said that 72 per cent of senior bank executives have reported that they are experiencing, or expect to experience, skill shortages in Ireland, as competition for talent in non-traditional banking roles intensifies.

The survey shows that 36 per cent of respondents identified skill gaps in digital skills, including data analytics and artificial intelligence, as well as in the areas of regulatory and compliance.

This was most evident among international banks, with 45 per cent of respondents noting difficulties accessing talent in those areas.

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan is Markets Correspondent of The Irish Times