Female Of The Species

Can we make all male boards extinct?

Despite female participation in the workforce increasing and research indicating that diverse teams are more likely to achieve better business outcomes and outperform on profitability, the percentage of women on boards in Ireland remains significantly lower than that of other countries. This includes the UK where the number of boards considered to be gender diverse has reached the highest level yet. Investors, regulators and the government continue to push for change to improve gender balance on boards. While some progress has been made to improve gender balance, more needs to be done to increase momentum and make all-male boards a thing of the past.

The overall percentage of women on all companies listed on the Euronext Dublin market currently stands at 16.4%. Disappointingly, almost one third do not have any female board members. Earlier this year the government-sponsored Better Balance for Business Review Group set various targets, including a target that by the end of 2019 no company traded on the Euronext Dublin market should have an all-male board. Recent updates from this Review Group indicate that progress has been slow and at least 12 companies look set to fail this target.

The targets set are not unobtainable. Here in Ireland there is a significant pool of senior female executives with valuable skills, experience and perspectives that boards need, yet these remain underutilised. Diversity is recognised as a key business issue, not just a matter of equality, and we need to see change now. Failing to improve gender balance will have a detrimental effect on Ireland's reputation and competitive position in the global marketplace. There are various steps companies can make to help shift gears and create more diverse boards which are better positioned to perform in today's rapidly changing business landscape.

Case for Change

The business case for diversity is well established. Deloitte research indicates that diverse and inclusive teams are:

• twice as likely meet or exceed financial targets • three times as likely to be high performing• six times more likely to be innovative and agile• eight times more likely to achieve better business outcomes.

Looking specifically at gender, the addition of women on boards is reported to have a positive impact, with diverse perspectives providing more challenging debates, improving decision-making and reducing 'groupthink'. These different perspectives are...

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