The percentage of women on Irish boards has fallen for the first time in eight years, new data has shown, as Ireland continues to lag behind other European countries in gender diversity.
The data, compiled by Dublin-based executive search company Accreate, found women represented only 20 per cent of board directors, down from 21 per cent in 2019. A quarter of Iseq companies have no female representation at board level, while only a third of new directors appointed last year were women, compared to 66 per cent male.
That compares to the UK where 34.5 per cent of FTSE board positions are now held by women.
Accreate’s Annual report on gender parity on Irish boards found only 55 per cent of Iseq companies – 30 in total – have more than one woman on the board.
"Despite a huge focus on diversity in the corporate world and an impression given that diversifying the make-up of our leadership teams is an area of priority, the results continue to indicate otherwise. Ireland is still considerably off the target put forward by the European Commission which proposed a 40 per cent objective for Women on boards by 2020," said Caroline Baldwin, partner at Accreate.
“Change at the top has been sluggish for years and it is clear to see that women continue to face barriers to success, and too few of them get to fulfil their potential as leaders. If this trend continues, we are looking at a two steps forwards one step back scenario, which will seriously curtail our progress in reaching anywhere near gender parity on Irish boards.”
Ms Baldwin called on companies to broaden their boards, citing research that shows companies with diverse boards outperform others.
“Structures must be changed, supports must be resourced and enabled and incentives must be introduced to change the picture of boardrooms across Ireland,” she said.
“There are countless board ready, experienced female leaders primed to take on their first board appointments and add real value and fresh perspective. They are being overlooked as they may not have had prior board experience. Women in Ireland are board ready, but are our boards ready for women?”