Business group to examine why so few women in senior roles

Group will be headed up by Bríd Horan and Gary Kennedy who will present a report

Co-chairs Bríd Horan of FBD Holdings and Gary Kennedy of Greencore outside Government Buildings. Photograph: Leah Farrell /

Co-chairs Bríd Horan of FBD Holdings and Gary Kennedy of Greencore outside Government Buildings. Photograph: Leah Farrell /


The Government has brought together a team of business leaders to examine and make recommendations as to why there are so few women in senior executive positions and at board level in Irish companies.

The business group will be led by Bríd Horan, an independent non-executive director of insurer FBD Holdings and a former deputy chief executive of the ESB, and by Gary Kennedy, a former banker and non-executive director and chair of Greencore.

The Better Balance for Better Business initiative was launched at an event in Government Buildings on Monday.

The percentage of women on the boards of Irish listed companies continues to be very low. More than one third of companies listed on the main securities market of Euronext Dublin have no women in the boardroom.

Women currently make up just 18.1 per cent of directors of Irish-registered ISEQ20 companies, which is significantly lower than the EU average of 26.2 per cent for large publicly-listed companies.

Assisting Mr Kennedy and Ms Horan on the review group are senior figures in Irish business and the public service, including BNY Mellon global head of client experience Carol Andrews, and Mark FitzGerald, chairman and co-founder of estate agents Sherry FitzGerald.

Also part of the group are Dell EMC EMEA president Aongus Hegarty, Ibec chief executive Danny McCoy, IDA Ireland chief executive Martin Shanahan, and Enterprise Ireland chief executive Julie Sinnamon.

The make-up of the group is completed by Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation secretary general Orlaigh Quinn, and Eir non-executive director Fiona Tierney, who is also a former chief executive of the Public Appointments Service.

Gender mix

The review group will examine the gender mix at the governance and senior management levels in companies, as well as the issues that arise in connection with the appointment of directors and senior management.

The group will initially focus on the main securities market of Euronext Dublin, and will report back with actions for Government and business to increase the percentage of women on corporate boards and in senior management in leading Irish companies.

It will present its first report to Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan by March 2019, which will also set “progressive targets” out to 2023, and annually thereafter.

Launching the project, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar stressed businesses would benefit from increasing the number of women in senior roles.

“Participation by women on State boards has increased over the last few years [to 41 per cent],” he said. “Unfortunately, female representation on corporate boards is lagging far behind. Ireland should be doing much better.

“Only 18 per cent of board directors are women. Over one third of companies have no female representation at all and are not positioning themselves well to respond to change or to understand an increasingly diverse customer base.

“Working together, Government and business can achieve the cultural change in business leadership that will position Ireland as a market leader in corporate decision-making.”