The Minister of State with special responsibility for Equality, Immigration and Integration, David Stanton TD, has today announced with the Taoiseach that Gary Kennedy and Bríd Horan will co-chair a business-led review group, the Better Balance for Better Business initiative, to promote better gender balance on corporate boards and in the senior management of leading Irish companies.
The percentage of women on the boards of Irish listed companies continues to be very low. Over one third of companies listed on the main markets of Euronext Dublin (formerly the Irish Stock Exchange) have no women in the boardroom. Women currently make up only 18.1% of directors of Irish-registered ISEQ20 companies, which is significantly lower than the EU average of 26.2% for large publicly-listed companies.
Assisting Mr Kennedy and Ms Horan on the review group are senior figures in Irish business and the public service - Carol Andrews, Mark FitzGerald, Aongus Hegarty, Danny McCoy, Martin Shanahan, Julie Sinnamon, Fiona Tierney, and Orlaigh Quinn.
The group will have the task of identifying a programme of actions to be taken by Government and by business to increase the percentage of women on corporate boards and in senior management in leading Irish companies. It will engage with companies to make the case for change and will report annually on its progress.
Minister Stanton pointed to the range of actions being undertaken by the government to promote gender equality:
"Better Balance for Better Business is one of a number of initiatives that the government is taking to promote gender equality. I am driving forward the implementation of the National Strategy for Women and Girls which has a wide-ranging agenda for change. The Strategy is working to open up opportunities for women and girls in all areas of Irish life – the workplace, politics, sport, the arts.
"The barriers that limit women’s potential also diminish men too. It is in the interests of men and boys that we have a society that is willing to realise and maximise the potential of all of its members. That is why I urge male business leaders to play their part in supporting this initiative. I look forward to working closely with Better Balance for Better Business and with the Irish business sector to bring about sustainable cultural change."
Speaking ahead of the launch, Ms Horan said:
"I’m looking forward to working with Gary and the Review Group on Better Balance for Business. While there’s an increasing recognition that gender balance is good for business, as well as for women, and while there are more women in certain key positions and on some boards, overall progress has been too slow and limited to too few companies. That’s why this business led initiative underpinned by government support is needed to drive broader, deeper and more rapid change.
Mr Kennedy added:
"I am delighted to co chair, with Bríd, this important initiative. We have key business influencers in the review group and leveraging their insights and support is critical to the success of the initiative. The business community has made progress in recognizing and accepting the enhanced value of better balance but we clearly lag our peer group relativities in terms of pace of execution.
Commenting ahead of the announcement, Minister for Justice and Equality, Charles Flanagan said:
"It is time to change, to ensure that business leadership does not remain the preserve of the few. We can see that concerted action to promote better gender balance on State boards has been successful. Women constitute 40.6% of members of State boards. This did not happen by accident. It required determination on the part of Government to take action and to encourage women to bid for decision-making opportunities. I am calling on business leaders today to make the commitment to better gender balance. I believe that opening up opportunities to women to become business leaders will reap dividends for Irish business.
It is expected that the review group will publish its first report within a year.
Notes to the Editor:
The Programme for a Partnership Government includes a commitment to promote women's participation in decision making. This is reflected in the National Strategy for Women and Girls 2017-2020, launched on 3 May 2017, which includes the advancement of women in leadership as one of its high-level objectives. The Strategy also includes a specific set of actions (4.1-4.2) to commission an independent review of the situation of women in the governance and senior management of companies in Ireland and of measures to promote and to increase women’s representation, such as targets for business. Better Balance for Better Business is being launched as the initiative to fulfil this commitment in the National Strategy.
The National Strategy for Women and Girls 2017-2020 contains 139 actions to advance the equality of women and girls. The Strategy includes actions to promote the socio-economic equality of women and girls, to advance their physical and mental wellbeing, to ensure their visibility in society and their equal and active citizenship, to advance women in leadership and decision-making and to combat violence against women. Minister Stanton chairs the Strategy Committee which monitors implementation of the Strategy.
Members of the Review group
Gary Kennedy is the independent non-executive director and chair at Green REIT plc, non-executive director and chair at Greencore Plc and Chairman of Connect Group plc.
Bríd Horan, former Deputy Chief Executive of ESB. Currently holds a number of non-executive roles including Chair Nephin Energy Ltd and Council Member Irish Management Institute. Co-founder of 30% Club Ireland
Carol Andrews, Global Head of Client Experience (Service Directors), BNY Mellon. Country Lead 30% Club Ireland
Mark FitzGerald, non-executive chairman of Sherry FitzGerald
Aongus Hegarty, President, Dell EMC EMEA
Danny McCoy, CEO of Ibec
Martin Shanahan, CEO of IDA Ireland
Julie Sinnamon, CEO of Enterprise Ireland
Fiona Tierney, non-executive director at eir Ireland, and of the Irish Management Institute (IMI). She was previously CEO of the Public Appointments Service
Dr Orlaigh Quinn, Secretary General, Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation