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Ireland among worst performers in increasing number of female directors

New European data shows 24 EU countries increased their proportion of female company directors last year – but not us.

Image: Executives photo via Shutterstock

IRELAND IS AMONG Europe’s worst performers in terms of increasing the number of women on the boards of corporations, new data has shown.

Figures published by the European Commission show that while the percentage of women on company boards increased across Europe in 2012 – from 13.7 per cent to 15.8 per cent in the nine months from January to October – but Ireland was one of only three countries not to see an increase.

Only Bulgaria, where female representation on corporate boards actually fell, had a worse performance than Ireland in 2012; Poland was the only country to match Ireland’s figures, where there was no change in the number of female directors.

Only 9 per cent of company directors in Ireland are women, the seventh-lowest total of any of the EU’s 27 member states. Malta has the lowest number, at 4 per cent; when the 12 recent entrants to the EU are excluded, Ireland is the worst-performing country.

Finland has the highest proportion of female directors, at 29 per cent, ahead of Latvia on 28 per cent, Sweden on 26 per cent and France on 25 per cent. The UK’s proportion of female directors stands at 19 per cent.

The stats are being compiled by the European Commission as it prepares draft laws which would require any company to have at least 40 per cent of its directors come from the under-represented sex by 2020, or by 2018 for publicly-traded companies.

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The draft law – which requires approval by the European Parliament and by the EU’s enterprise ministers before it can take effect – would require companies to introduce new selection procedures for board members to give priority to qualified female candidates.

The laws would not apply to small and medium enterprises, and would automatically expire in 2028. Brussels has said the laws put an emphasis firmly on qualification, and that nobody would be given a position solely because of their gender – but neither would a woman be turned down for a position solely because of her sex.

The matter is provisionally listed to be discussed by EU enterprise ministers during a meeting of the EU Employment and Social Affairs Council in June, which will be chaired by Richard Bruton under Ireland’s Council presidency.

Read: Gender gap: Irish women pay ‘high price’ for motherhood

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Gavan Reilly

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