Ireland badly needs more
Will you step up?
Louise Glennon is Women
in Leadership Officer with
the National Women’s
Council of Ireland. In this
special feature for Irish
Tatler Business, she shares
the findings of the Council’s
Better Boards, Better Society
My job – a job I love! – sees me encourage So why THIS DISCONNECT? The
Irish women of all ages to seek out WORKFORCE IN IRELAND is characterised
leadership positions. It also involves the
NWCI encouraging others to recognise by some of the following issues:
the diversity of ways in which women
already provide leadership in this 1WOMEN ARE MORE LIKELY TO WORK IN PART
country. To make a difference – because a difference is no TIME, precarious or casual work, and often it is low paid. According
longer desired, it’s required – the starting point is an analysis to the CSO over 50% of working women earn €20,000 or less.
of where we stand today.
2GENDER PAY GAP: women earn on average 14.4% less than
First off, women are not a minority group: at 51% of the men in Ireland, and this has grown incrementally over the last few
population we outnumber men in Ireland. We’re a highly years. The sectors where women dominate are more poorly paid.
educated bunch: 53% of 25 – 34 year old women have a
third level education, compared with just 40% of men in the 3VERTICAL AND HORIZONTAL SEGREGATION:
same age bracket. Year on year young women outperform Women dominate in education and in health (in 2012 35.5% of
young men in the Leaving Cert, applying to and graduating working women were accounted for in those sectors), and it is
from third level institutions in greater numbers than men. men that make the decisions in the sectors where women form the large
Over eight hundred and sixty four thousand of us are in paid proportion of the workforce.
4THERE ARE WIDELY PUBLICISED SKILLS
Yet, while we make up 51% of the population, women SHORTAGES in the areas where women tend not to work,
remain a minority in many places. We hold just over 10% of namely STEM – science, technology, engineering and maths.
the seats on the boards of listed companies (in this regard,
Ireland is ninth from the bottom in Europe). The news Women are being encouraged into these careers in an effort to plug these
improves somewhat on state boards, where 36% are female. skills gaps. Many women with qualifications in these areas are not applying
The current government has promoted a number of women their expertise through paid work.
to senior decision-making positions such as the Attorney
General, the Chief Justice, the Garda Commissioner and the 5CHILDCARE: Childcare costs in Ireland are the second highest
DPP, amongst others. Just sixteen percent, however – 27 of in the OECD. This is a significant deterrent as it is women that
166 – of TDs are female. In all, I don’t think these figures drop out of the workforce in significant numbers from the age of 34
reflect the droves of dynamic, hard-working, highly educated onwards, usually on the birth of their second child.
women that we all know in our lives.
“Women earn on average 14.4% less than men in Ireland,
and this has grown incrementally over the last few years.”
What does the NATIONAL WOMEN’S COUNCIL OF IRELAND recommend?
Directors and CEOs should create a leadership pipeline from stateboards.ie. This presents a real opportunity, and we
the workplace to the boardroom. encourage all women to register with stateboards.ie today.
#Establish and maintain a family-friendly work environment: #The State must legislate for gender quotas on non-state
Put simply, businesses have an obligation to recognise the care boards. Quotas are a blunt tool, but they have been proven to
roles and responsibilities of ALL of their staff. increase the number of women on boards.
A government or a nominated state agency, must act as a
#Family-friendly, flexible work arrangements must be watchdog, through rigorous monitoring and measuring
of what is proposed, what is being done, and what is being
encouraged and facilitated. Technology is a key enabler here. accomplished.
#Maternity leave must be incorporated into the planning #Incentivise future efforts by sharing best practices: there is a
process; paternity leave and parental leave should be provided, great deal of work already happening in Ireland, Europe and
as should the right to request flexible working and leave this best practice should be openly shared across sectors.
conditions; necessary on-site facilities must also be considered.
#Public Procurement processes are currently being discussed
#All staff, female and male, should be encouraged to avail of
in Ireland. They have been used effectively in Spain as a way to
these policies. reward positive action. This should be considered here.
#Gender-sensitivity training must be incorporated into #Finally, a ‘Women on Boards’ independent review, similar to
management, human resources, and employee training to that conducted in the UK must be established, made up of a
identify unconscious bias. diverse group of stakeholders to conduct a baseline report, to
Chairpersons and Board Members must self-regulate on board establish a national picture, and to develop recommendations.n
diversity – set gender goals, strengthen governance, seek out To learn more about Better Boards, Better Society, see nwci.ie.
women, and invest in directors and potential directors.
#Businesses are driven by targets. Gender target must be set as
indicators of organisational performance – for the board, board
committees, and senior management, and a plan on how to
achieve them must be mapped out.
#Governance standards for private, public, and third sector
organisations must be strengthened: companies floated on the
Irish Stock Exchange adhere to the Combined Code, which is
the UK Corporate Governance Code, and the Irish Corporate
Governance Annex. The UK Code does have gender specific
recommendations which are implicit but not named in the
Annex. Implicit is not enough. The Dochas Code, for Irish
development organisations, also does not specify gender.
Codes must be amended to explicitly name gender. As with
other governance issues companies should simply ‘comply or
#Actively seek women for board positions: recruitment
processes must be targeted, to ensure that women are aware of
vacancies, and of an openness to recruiting women. Investors
should also be supported to engage in and vote on gender-
#Boards must plan successions with gender balance in mind –
statistics show that low levels of board turnover act as a barrier
Government, Chairs and Members of State Boards must take
the lead, and ensure that the state becomes a model of gender
#In 1993 the government set a target of 40% gender balance
on State boards. Twelve years on it still has not been achieved,
representation currently sits at 36%. It is creeping upwards.
#NWCI is engaging with the Department of Public
Expenditure and Reform, and the Public Appointments Service
in implementing reform in this area through the Guidelines
on Appointments to State Boards, and the promotion of