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Fewer than one in five Irish companies have woman on the board

Women are under-represented while support among executives for gender quotas drops.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg in Beijing last year
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg in Beijing last year
Image: Andy Wong/AP/PA Images

WOMEN ARE STILL struggling to make an impact on the upper echelons of Irish business, a new survey by global accounting firm Grant Thornton has found.

The Grant Thornton Women in Business report found that just 18 per cent of Irish boards have a female member. While this is an increase of 1 per cent from 2013, it is below the EU average and significantly below European Commission targets to have 40 per cent female board representation by 2020.

Grant Thornton partner Sinead Donovan said that there was “little or no chance of Ireland hitting the level targeted by the European commission”.

Minor gains were also recorded in women’s representation in senior management positions, which stands at 23 per cent, up from 21 per cent in 2013. However, just 8 per cent of companies plan to proactively hire more women into senior management this year.

Donovan said companies needed to think creatively about solutions that enable upward mobility for women.

“There are no simple solutions, but increasing support for working mothers and enhanced opportunities for female graduates are likely to play a crucial role in making sure that we have more women coming through in younger age cohorts to take senior positions.”

Nosedive in support for quotas

In a marked departure from previous years, the report found that support among executives in large listed Irish companies for gender quotas is on the wane.

Just 31 per cent of those surveyed are in favour of quotas, down from 37 per cent last year and running contrary to an upward trend in other jurisdictions that has seen support rise by 8 per cent to 41 per cent in the EU and to 45 per cent from 37 per cent worldwide.

Donovan said:

Personally I have mixed feelings about quotas – if they shine a spotlight on the shortfall of women on boards then that is helpful, but we certainly do not want to get to a point where women are simply brought in to make up the numbers.”

The report found that Irish companies are offering a more supportive environment for working mothers, with 71 per cent of companies now offering flexible working arrangements, up from 53 per cent in 2013.

Ireland 9th fin the EU for gender equality at work, but only 19th for power>

About the author:

Jack Horgan-Jones

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