Gender balance in Irish boardrooms improves but still a way to go

Research points to improvements but 10 firms trading in Dublin have all-male boards

Anne Heraty CEO of CPL – one of the few  Irish female  CEOs of an Iseq listed company. 

Anne Heraty CEO of CPL – one of the few Irish female CEOs of an Iseq listed company. 

 

From bottom of the pile to top of the class, Irish boardrooms have pivoted dramatically in the past two years in the gender diversity stakes, according to a new study from executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles.

While Iseq companies appointed women to fewer than 30 per cent of non-executive positions in 2018, the lowest in a survey of eight major western European countries, the rate had swung to 60 per cent last year, making Irish public-limited companies a stand-out again – and a more respectable one. Hopefully 2019 wasn’t an anomaly.

We’re starting, of course, from a low point. The Republic is ranked 15th in the EU for the representation of women on boards of publicly quoted companies, the Balance for Better Business group, which was launched by then taoiseach Leo Varadkar, said in an update in March.

Among Iseq 20 companies, 26.3 per cent of board directors were female at the time of that update, albeit up from 18.1 per cent two years ago. Among listed companies outside the Iseq 20, 15.9 per cent of boardroom positions are held by women, compared with 9.6 per cent two years ago.

However, 10 companies trading in Dublin have all-male boards. They are Amryt Pharma, Applegreen, Donegal Investment Group, Great Western Mining, Mainstay Medical International, Mincon, Open Orphan, Ormonde Mining, Ovoca Bio and Providence Resources. Malin Corporation managed to remove itself from the list in March when it appointed Danish pharmaceutical executive Kirsten Drejer to its board.

Increased gender diversity across Irish boards is to be welcomed, given the weight of research showing that it leads to better decision making. A 2018 study of 1,000 companies across 12 countries by McKinsey found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 21 per cent more likely to experience above-average profitability.

Ireland’s increasingly diverse boards must now shift their focus to why so few woman occupy chief executive positions across Ireland plc – and even fewer in chief financial officer roles.

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