Irish businesses slow to change when it comes to diversity

Some 76% of board members are men, while just 11% of boards have LGBT members

Only half of companies have a strategy in place for diversity and inclusion. Photograph: iStock

Only half of companies have a strategy in place for diversity and inclusion. Photograph: iStock


Almost all companies believe diversity in personnel is vital for business performance, but more than a third are spending as little as €1,000 a year on its promotion, according to new research by professional services firm EY.

The research was conducted among more than 100 senior leaders across a range of indigenous Irish and global multinational organisations.

It found that 94 per cent of business leaders believe an inclusive environment is vital to business performance, but that there remains a lack of gender, race, ethnicity and LGBT diversity at senior management and board level.

Furthermore, 35 per cent said they spend less than €1,000 a year on diversity and inclusion, which amounts to less than €20 per week.

At board level, 76 per cent of members are men. At senior management level women fill about 33 per cent of positions, which is 8 per cent higher than the current global average.

Furthermore, only 11 per cent of boards have members who are LGBT, while a further 8 per cent have members with disabilities.

Only half of companies have a strategy in place for diversity and inclusion, and less than a third have set goals for it. In addition, 53 per cent of organisations do not measure progress and success in the area.

More than six in 10 companies with a strategy in place said it helped them to acquire and retain talent, while a quarter attributed higher sales revenue and profit margins to the strategy and its implementation.

‘Diversity is a journey’

Olivia McEvoy, EY’s director and head of diversity and inclusion advisory services, said that while the research shows there is an “overwhelming consensus” that the area is vital to accelerating business performance, actual work practices “do not reflect this view”.

“This may be explained by limited investment and know-how,” she said. “The fact is that integrating diversity and inclusion into business strategy is no longer a ‘nice to have’ but ‘a must’ if companies want to compete for the best and most engaged talent.

“It is clear that this is an area that needs investment and commitment in order to unlock the many benefits. However, companies should not feel they have to do everything at once.

“A successful diversity and inclusion programme is very much a journey and, as such, companies should allocate resources so that they can start by assessing where they are now on this journey, and gather and analyse their data before developing and implementing a strategy that will work for their business.”