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Ireland’s lack of gender equality in the boardroom

No Irish listed company made a top 200 ranking of global businesses in developed countries in terms of women holding board or executive roles

Just 13 per cent of Irish board members were female in 2017 while more than 40 per cent of listed companies here had no women on their boards, research carried out by Korn Ferry has found.

A new report on gender equality published on Wednesday highlighted just how far Irish public companies have to journey when compared with their peers in other major economies.

The Gender Equality Global Report and Ranking by Dutch social venture Equileap showed that Austria, Japan and Ireland were the only counties of the 23 researched with no companies in the top 200 businesses in terms of women holding board and executive roles.

“Ireland was alone in having no companies performing well enough to be included in the full data sample in 2018,” the report stated. Equileap ranked all public companies with a market value of more than $2 billion in 23 developed countries as of January 2018. That amounted to 3,206 in total, of which it then compiled a top 200 ranking.

On average, 34 per cent of board roles are now held by women in the top 200 companies, up from 30 per cent last year. Some 26 per cent of executive roles were filled by women compared with 20 per cent previously.

General Motors topped the ranking with a score of 71 and a B+ rating, followed closely by French companies L’Oreal and Kering.

UK drinks group Diageo, which owns Guinness and whose shares are listed in Dublin, ranked 11th with a score of 64 and a B grade.

Norway, which obliges listed companies to reserve at least 40 per cent of their board seats for women or risk dissolution, had the highest proportion (43 per cent) of companies in the top 200, followed by Israel, Belgium, Australia and the Netherlands.

Earlier this month, research from executive search firm Korn Ferry found that just 13 per cent of Irish board members were female in 2017 while more than 40 per cent of listed companies here had no women on their boards.

The European Commission has been working on a directive to address this issue since 2010. It’s time now for Ireland and the other member states to support this proposal.