Julie Sinnamon and Aongus Hegarty to lead Balance for Better Business

23 Jun 2021

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The former Enterprise Ireland CEO and the Dell executive will lead the initiative driving for greater gender balance in Irish business.

Julie Sinnamon and Aongus Hegarty have been appointed the new co-chairs of Balance for Better Business (B4BB).

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar, TD, announced their appointment today (23 June). Sinnamon and Hegarty will succeed Brid Horan and Gary Kennedy in leading the independent review group.

“Brid and Gary are leaving Balance for Better Business in good hands,” said Varadkar.

“Both Julie and Aongus have been members of the review group since 2018 and have extensive knowledge and experience in driving gender balance and diversity in business. I look forward to working with them both over the coming months and wish both Brid and Gary the very best of luck in their future endeavours.”

Balance for Better Business is tasked with improving gender balance in senior business leadership in Ireland. As co-chairs, Sinnamon and Hegarty are expected to engage with the Irish business community, advocating for greater gender balance on boards and in leadership roles.

Balancing act

Balance for Better Business was established by the Government in 2018. Leaders representing diverse sectors in Ireland were invited to join the business-led review group in order to address the gender imbalance at senior levels in Irish business.

Since 2020, the group has been funded by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

Three reports have been produced by B4BB to date, with the group calling for reform to ensure more women play a role on boards and in senior leadership. Progressive gender balance targets have been set for Irish businesses to reach in 2023, and reaching them will prove challenging.

As of December 2020, companies across the country were on track to fail against the voluntary targets set by B4BB.

‘We’ve shone a light on the low percentage of women on company boards and in senior executive positions’

In terms of progress since 2018, the percentage of women on the boards of top publicly listed companies in Ireland increased from 18pc to 30pc. This has reduced the gap between Ireland and the EU average from eight percentage points to just one.

“By failing to include women in leadership teams, businesses ignore the talent of half the population. I launched Balance for Better Business in 2018 to correct this disparity and I really welcome the significant progress that Brid and Gary have made during their tenure,” said Varadkar.

Outgoing chair Horan co-founded 30% Club Ireland, the Irish chapter of a global campaign pushing for greater representation of women at senior levels in business.

She said: “We’ve shone a light on the low percentage of women on company boards and in senior executive positions through structured analysis, engaged with decision-makers on measures to increase this and have set progressive targets for change.

“Companies need to maintain and broaden this momentum to derive the real benefits of gender balanced leadership. With sustained focus and effort, progress can also be made in smaller companies and at senior executive levels where there are still significant imbalances.”

‘I continue to believe that meritocracy and diversity can both be achieved’

Both Sinnamon and Hegarty have been part of the B4BB review group since it was launched in 2018.

Sinnamon is the former CEO of Enterprise Ireland. She stepped down from this role and was succeeded by former IDA executive Leo Clancy earlier this year. Up to then, she had spent 30 years in senior public sector positions in Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland. She is also a member of the National Competitiveness Council and the investment committee of the Irish Strategic Investment Fund, and a board member of Social Entrepreneurs Ireland.

Hegarty is currently president of international markets at Dell Technologies. He co-leads the Global Women’s Network and is a member of the Global Diversity Council chaired by Michael Dell. He previously chaired the executive council for the American Chamber of Commerce to the European Union and is a member of the Special Olympics Ireland Council of Patrons.

Both outgoing co-chairs commended B4BB programme director Anne-Marie Taylor for her contribution to the group. Taylor is also on the steering committee of the 30% Club Ireland.

Kennedy, who serves as chair of Greencore Group, said that it was “a privilege” to co-lead B4BB and “create momentum around an evolving targets-based agenda”.

“I am proud that Ireland has made so much progress and for that I am eternally grateful to business leaders who listened to the mood music and embraced the direction of travel,” he said.

“They, like I, know we are still on the baby slopes and I encourage them to be pioneering and brave in continuing that leadership. Julie and Aongus will guide them on that pathway. I continue to believe that meritocracy and diversity can both be achieved in equal components.”

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.