The low levels of female representation on the Boards of leading Irish companies was thrown into the spotlight this week as Balance for Better Business launched its first report.

The independent business-led review group, established by the Government to make recommendations on how more women can be involved in decision-making at the top level of businesses in Ireland, outlined a series of ambitious targets and advice for Irish companies.

In brief, the headline figures from the report are as follows:

  • ISEQ 20 companies should have at least 33% female directors by end of 2023
  • All other Irish listed companies should have at least 25% female directors by end of 2023
  • No company traded on Euronext Dublin should have an all-male board by end of 2019

As it currently stands, 20.9% of ISEQ 20 directors and 12.1% of directors of other Irish listed companies are female. This amounts to an average of 16.4% women on the boards of all Irish listed companies. Meanwhile, a total of 15 listed companies still have all-male boards.

Clearly, now is the time for businesses in Ireland to address this crucially important issue and to create an environment for female participation at the highest levels, on boards and in executive leadership. Every day, gender balance becomes even more of a reputational issue for Irish businesses that will impact everything from recruitment and retention to growth.

The report argues that there is an evident need to recognise the significant pool of qualified and experienced female talent that already exists but too often is overlooked in making key appointments and to address some of the current deficits in culture, people development and selection and promotion processes.

As Balance for Better Business co-chairs Gary Kennedy and Brid Horan comment in their report: ‘Women are the most under-utilised economic asset in the world and countries and businesses that recognise this are the ones who will do best in the world of tomorrow.’

Our role

Drury Porter Novelli was appointed by the Department of Justice at the beginning of 2019 to help promote the reputation of the Balance for Better Business initiative as it examines the gender mix within the governance and senior management of companies in Ireland, and the issues which arise in connection with the appointment of company directors and senior management.

As such, we have acted as consultants to the initiative, helping to drive the programme forward, advising not just on the promotion and communication of the targets and recommendations, as well as on the dissemination of constructive information and material for the businesses they impact, but also on how the group engages with companies on an ongoing basis, and importantly, how it can optimally protect its reputation as it does so.