Gender diversity in Irish boardrooms remains static

25 Apr 2018

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In terms of gender diversity at the top tier in Irish businesses, nothing has changed in the past year.

Irish boardrooms are still static – or stagnant – when it comes to diversity and inclusion, and regulation may be needed to drive change.

That’s the finding of the latest research from EY, which noted that from among 150 senior leaders across all levels of Irish business, the gender composition of both boards and senior management has not notably changed in the last year.

From across SMEs, State bodies and multinational organisations, only 26pc of women are on boards while 32pc have representation at senior management.

Almost half (49pc) say they favour regulation as a driver for creating more diverse and inclusive organisations.

In light of the lack of progress on gender diversity of boards, 91pc of this group said they favour regulation to address the gender pay gap, and 79pc said they favour regulation to address gender diversity of boards.

‘Organisations that begin preparing now and prioritising diversity and inclusion as a strategic imperative will reap benefits in the months and years to come’

Diversity and inclusion affects the bottom line

The report was published this morning (25 April) at the EY Diversity and Inclusion InMotion Summit held in the Mansion House, Dublin.

“With gender pay gap legislation on the Government agenda, it’s encouraging to see that many Irish businesses are supportive of the move,” said Olivia McEvoy, director of diversity and inclusion at EY Ireland’s advisory services.

“Organisations that begin preparing now and prioritising diversity and inclusion as a strategic imperative will reap benefits in the months and years to come.”

McEvoy said that diversity at board level is an issue, and it’s not improving.

“It is clear from the findings that organisations in Ireland emphatically acknowledge diversity and inclusion as a business imperative.

“However, actual progress and work practices do not entirely reflect that view. This seems in part due to a failure to make the connection between diversity and inclusion and the bottom line.”

Investing in diversity

When it comes to investing in diversity and inclusion, the proportion of organisations investing €1,000 or less has fallen from 36pc last year to just 20pc this year.

However, businesses investing €50,000 a year has increased from 9pc to 15pc in the same time period.

Investment tends to be focused on events (77pc) and sponsorship (42pc).

On the ground, less than a fifth (19pc) are investing in strategy development, 19pc are investing in strategy implementation, less than a third (31pc) are investing in data collection and analysis, while 16.7pc are investing in diagnostics and benchmarking.

McEvoy said that investing in events and sponsorships alone will simply not drive business performance when it comes to diversity and inclusion.

“An effective D&I programme requires governance and executive sponsorship as well as an informed leadership who are held accountable for that success. It is essential to have an evidence base for D&I, setting specific goals and targets and measuring success and progress, achieved through diagnostics and data analytics.

“Without knowledge of who is working in the organisation, it’s nigh on impossible to address issues that drive diversity and create an environment that fosters respect and celebration of difference. While the business impact of D&I is widely acknowledged, it’s time for Irish businesses to change gear and put words into action,” McEvoy said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years