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Gender diversity on boards improving, say women directors

However, they say that transparency in the appointment process is needed, according to a new research report.

PROGRESS HAS BEEN made regarding the number of women on boards in Ireland – but obstacles remain, a new report says.

The new research report looks into the views of women members of the Institute of Directors in Ireland, who currently hold a directorship, either executive or non-executive.

The report found that while progress has been made in improving gender diversity on boards, the women surveyed believe that greater transparency in the appointment process is needed so that the number of women on boards is increased.

The report showed the following positive points:

  • Over half (58 per cent) of women say that gender diversity on the board on which they sit has improved in the last five years
  • Over a third (37 per cent) say that gender diversity is either a medium, or high priority, for their board
  • More than two thirds (68 per cent) of women surveyed have undertaken formal director training
  • The vast majority (94 per cent) of women surveyed feel equal in the boardroom

The negative points include:

  • Majority of women believe it is more difficult for women to become non-executive directors than men
  • Fifty five per cent say women do not have equal access to information about available directorship positions
  • 72 per cent say greater transparency in the appointment process is needed to enable more women to be appointed as directors in Ireland
  • 4 in 5 say women themselves need to take some responsibility for the low level of women on boards in Ireland

Glass ceiling

When asked whether they believe there is a ‘glass-ceiling’ preventing women being appointed to boards in Ireland, 35 per cent said that a ‘glass ceiling’ does exist. This contrasted with almost the same amount (34 per cent) being of the opinion that there is either no ‘glass ceiling’ or that a ‘glass ceiling’ existed in the past, but not any longer.

A further 18 per cent of those surveyed believe that a ‘glass ceiling’ exists, but only in certain sectors or industry types, such as financial services and publicly listed companies.

Asked about gender quotas versus gender targets, 43 per cent said they believe that gender targets are preferable to mandatory quotas.

However, 29 per cent think that quotas are the most effective means of increasing the number of women on boards, while a quarter say that gender quotas are the wrong approach.

Maura Quinn, Chief Executive, Institute of Directors in Ireland, said:

What we now need to focus on is addressing the issues in the appointment process by working to ensure that women are on an equal footing to men from the outset and we must ensure that boards are encouraged to look at a wider talent pool when making appointments.

Asked about EU proposals to introduce a 40 per cent target for the under-represented sex on boards of Europe’s listed companies by 2020, 70 per cent said they support this, but 59 per cent surveyed are not confident or unsure whether Ireland can meet these requirements.

The report can be read online here.

Read: Gender pay gap in Ireland still ‘unacceptably’ wide>

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