People running up an arrow to a giant target in a diversity targets cartoon concept.
Image: © Nuthawut/Stock.adobe.com

Irish business leaders favour targets over quotas for board diversity

1 Nov 2022

The EU is bringing in quotas to boost the representation of women on boards. But Irish business leaders may be more in favour of targets.

Almost three-quarters (71pc) of Irish business leaders are in favour of targets rather than quotas or other methods for ensuring more diverse boards.

That’s according to the latest quarterly director sentiment monitor by the Institute of Directors (IoD) in Ireland.

It comes after the EU agreement that at least 40pc of non-executive director positions in listed companies should be held by women by 2026. This move, which was recently approved by the Council of the European Union, aims to boost representation and improve gender equality across Europe.

The EU decision will have to be transposed into Irish law. However, the IoD’s research suggests that there is a majority preference for targets, with only 14pc of leaders surveyed saying they are in favour of quotas and 15pc citing other methods.

Caroline Spillane, CEO of IoD Ireland, said the organisation will be highlighting this research to Government and encouraging the Cabinet to work further with businesses to achieve greater diversity.

“It is important to note that while targets are important, there are many diverse and important criteria to be considered in selecting board candidates in pursuit of a diverse and inclusive board,” she added.

“For example, the research found that meeting targets is not a high priority when influencing how a director is recruited, with filling a skills need highlighted as the key reason. Nevertheless, all boards will need to be aware of the current Government and EU targets and commitments with regard to gender targets in particular in this area. Much work needs to be done on this.”

Spillane added that boards should “address and review” their board composition policy and have an organisational diversity policy or statement.

The IoD research found that just over half (59pc) of its members have a board composition policy in place, while 51pc have a diversity policy or statement in place.

“I would encourage all boards who do not currently have one of these policies to put one in place. This is a key enabler for ensuring a diverse and inclusive board and organisation,” said Spillane.

When the IoD asked leaders for their views on how diverse and inclusive their workplace is currently, 36pc said they strongly agreed that their organisation did ensure a diverse and inclusive workplace.

Just under half (47pc) said they moderately agreed, while only 1pc strongly disagreed that their organisation worked to be inclusive and diverse.

The majority of Irish business leaders (69pc) surveyed believe that hybrid working is an advantage when it comes to creating a diverse and tolerant working environment, with only 3pc of leaders saying they strongly disagreed.

Spillane warned that it is “crucial” to monitor hybrid working’s true impact on diversity and inclusion over time.

“We do not want a scenario whereby on the surface it seems like it allows for more recruitment of a particular group. However, in truth it means then this group cannot progress in their career as they are not visible in the office due to remote working.”

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Blathnaid O’Dea
By Blathnaid O’Dea

Blathnaid O’Dea joined Silicon Republic in 2021 as Careers reporter, coming from a background in the Humanities. She likes people, pranking, pictures of puffins – and apparently alliteration.

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