Diversity leads to better performing companies, says BT Ireland CEO

5 Nov 2014

BT Ireland CEO Colm O'Neill addresses the audience at last night's Women Invent Meet-up in Dublin. Photo by Conor McCabe Photography

There should be no let-up in the battle for greater diversity in the workplace and it has been proven that companies that embrace diversity perform better than those that don’t, BT Ireland CEO Colm O’Neill said.

O’Neill was speaking at Silicon Republic’s Women Invent Meet-up in Dublin last night.

He said he is proud that at least eight people from the extended BT family, from BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition judges to four previous Young Scientist winners, are on Silicon Republic’s top 100 women in STEM list.

O’Neill pointed out that the 168-year-old company prides itself on diversity and inclusion in the workplace, in particular ensuring women occupy senior positions.

He said diversity was recognised as being important back in the 19th century and dug out a report from 1870 from the Post Master to the Treasury.

“And I quote: ‘the mixture of sexes involves no risk, but is highly beneficial. It raises the tone of male staff by confining them to decency of demeanour which is not often the case when men are left alone.’

“How things have changed. Today, 30pc of our board is female and 21pc of our senior management team is female. Of people who take maternity leave, 93pc return and are still in the workplace 12 months later,” said O’Neill.

More work to be done on diversity

O’Neill added there is more than can be done.

“As CEO, it is not enough. If we can fix diversity issues in our company it will lead to better financial results and a better work environment for people.”

He noted in particular the challenge in education in attracting young women into science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

However, if anything, recent figures on record entries to the 51st BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition show encouraging signs. Some 4,616 students submitted 2,077 projects and of those, 54pc of entries are from females and 46pc are from males.

“Women are out-competing the men in numbers and as you can see from previous award winners, young Irish women are going on to be globally successful,” O’Neill said.

Women Invent Tomorrow is Silicon Republic’s campaign to champion the role of women in science, technology, engineering and maths. It has been running since March 2013, and is kindly supported by Accenture Ireland, Intel, the Irish Research Council, ESB, Twitter, CoderDojo and Science Foundation Ireland

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