Aisling O'Neill, president of Network Ireland, standing outside the research and innovation centre she manages in Waterford.
Aisling O’Neill, president of Network Ireland. Image: Patrick Browne

‘If we can see it we can be it’: The key to more women business leaders

13 Jul 2021

According to new CSO figures from this year, the number of women chairpersons and women CEOs have increased since 2019.

The representation of women at chairperson level among large Irish companies has almost doubled in the past two years, according to figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

Just 7.4pc of women held the role of chairperson in 2019. However, statistics show the figure jumped to 14pc in 2021.

The CSO’s survey on gender balance in Irish businesses also found that one in eight (13pc) of CEOs in large enterprises in Ireland in 2021 were women.

Almost 700 enterprises and around 250 employees took part in the online survey, which was completed in January of this year.

Reacting to the survey results, the president of women’s business organisation Network Ireland, Aisling O’Neill, said: “This is hugely encouraging for women today – particularly considering the upheaval of the past 18 months and a series of reports showing women’s working lives have been heavily impacted by the pandemic.”

Since 2019, female membership of boards of directors increased marginally from 20pc to 22pc.

And, while men accounted for 93pc of board chairpersons in 2019, this has since reduced to 86pc.

O’Neill, who is also manager of Waterford’s ArcLabs research and innovation centre, said she was satisfied that across most of the positions surveyed in the CSO research of large companies, women’s representation was broadly level or slightly up on 2019 figures.

She said she hoped the news would bring “more encouragement to women around Ireland, over 1,000 of whom are Network Ireland members, that they have the potential and ability to take on the most senior roles in their workplaces”.

O’Neill, who is president of a network of 1,200 members across 14 branches of Network Ireland, said that women seeing other women in leadership roles was an important factor in increasing women’s representation.

“We know that visible role models are vitally important and I’d like to congratulate these women taking on chairperson roles in their companies for all they’re doing to advance their careers and thereby encourage others. They are key to fulfilling the promise of the principle surrounding ‘if we can see it we can be it’,” she said.

Blathnaid O’Dea
By Blathnaid O’Dea

Blathnaid O’Dea worked as a Careers reporter until 2024, coming from a background in the Humanities. She likes people, pranking, pictures of puffins – and apparently alliteration.

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