Ministers Donohoe and Stanton launch first report of the ‘Balance for Better Business’ Initiative

29th May, 2019

  • Review of gender balance of corporate boards of listed Irish companies
  • Targets of 33% female directors for ISEQ 20 companies by 2023
  • 25% for all other Irish listed companies


Today, Minister for Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohoe TD, and  Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration, David Stanton TD, launched the first report of the Balance for Better Business Review Group.


The independent business-led review group, established by the Government to make recommendations on how more women can be involved in decision-making at the top level of businesses in Ireland, has outlined a series of ambitious targets and advice for Irish companies.


The initial focus of Balance for Better Business has been on the boardrooms of publicly quoted companies. They will now be extend their analysis, recommended targets to other companies, and to executive levels in future reports.


Launching the report, Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure & Reform, Paschal Donohoe T.D., commented: “I believe, at its best, business is a meritocracy built on people having the right character, skills and behaviours rather than being based on gender, ethnicity or the school they attended. This will ultimately lead to a more capable, effective, respected and inclusive business that attracts and retains the best customers and employees. By building businesses that represent and reflect society as it is we strengthen the bonds of consensus upon which society depends. The Government is committed to promoting women’s participation in decision-making, believing, as it does, that this leads to better decision-making and a fairer and more balanced society. This is what the Ireland of today is becoming and we need to ensure that this work continues, to build a more equal Ireland of tomorrow.”


Balance for Better Business has set targets of at least 33% female directors for ISEQ 20 companies by the end of 2023, and 25% for all other Irish listed companies. ISEQ20 companies are the top 20 companies listed on Euronext Dublin.


The group has set interim targets for each year so that companies can measure their progress against concrete annual milestones. They have also set a target that by the end of 2019, no company traded on the Euronext Dublin markets should have an all-male board.


Welcoming the report, Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration, David Stanton, T.D., said:  “I am pleased to see that change is happening but it has to accelerate. The days of all-male boards has to come to an end now. They are relics of the past. As we go into a new decade in 2020, the Government urges Irish companies to demonstrate their commitment to modernity by ensuring that they all have women on their boards by the end of 2019. Corporate boards must move beyond tokenism.  Business and society will both benefit from better gender balance in the boardroom.”

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, T.D., said: “Women make up 50% of our talent in Ireland. I believe that we should be ambitious in using this talent. Our focus should be on achieving strong leadership. The 40% target set by Government to increase participation by women on State Boards has been successfully achieved and improves board effectiveness. Our business community can follow this lead and achieve similar outcomes. I am confident that Boards which embrace this challenge will benefit from new possibilities and new opportunities.”

Speaking ahead of the launch, Brid Horan, one of the Co-Chairs of Balance for Better Business, said: “I’m pleased that progress has been achieved since the launch of the initiative, with the overall percentage of women on Irish publicly listed boards increasing in the last year from 14% to 16.4% and two ISEQ 20 companies appointing women to their boards for the first time. However, the momentum needs to accelerate and to be sustained for balance to be achieved, as Ireland has slipped further behind other EU member states in recent year.”


Gary Kennedy, Co-Chair, Balance for Better Business, said: “We need to recognise the significant pool of qualified and experienced female talent that already exists but too often is overlooked in making key appointments. Women are the most under-utilised economic asset in the world and countries and businesses that recognise this are the ones who will do best in the world of tomorrow. We have had a robust debate on the merits of targets versus quotas and have elected, at this stage, to recommend targets. Now is the time for business leaders to take ownership of this issue, to take the lead by making progress at board and senior management levels.”


Notes for editors:

Balance for Better Business, which was launched by An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar T.D. in July 2018, is tasked with examining the gender mix within the governance and senior management of companies in Ireland and the issues which arise in connection with the appointment of company directors and senior management.


Co-chaired by Brid Horan and Gary Kennedy, the Balance for Better Business Review Group is supported by the Department of Justice and includes senior figures in Irish business and the public service: Carol Andrews (30% Club and BNY Mellon), Mark FitzGerald (Sherry FitzGerald), Aongus Hegarty (Dell), Danny McCoy (Ibec), Martin Shanahan (IDA), Julie Sinnamon (Enterprise Ireland), Fiona Tierney (eir) and Dr Orlaigh Quinn (Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation). The Programme Director is Anne-Marie Taylor.


As it currently stands, 20.9% of ISEQ 20 directors and 12.1% of directors of other Irish listed companies are female.  This amounts to an average of 16.4% women on the boards of all Irish listed companies. A total of 15 listed companies still have all-male boards.


The Programme for a Partnership Government includes a commitment to promote women’s participation in decision making. This is reflected in the National Strategy for Women and Girls 2017-2020, launched on 3 May 2017, which includes the advancement of women in leadership as one of its high-level objectives. The Strategy also includes a specific set of actions (4.1-4.2) to commission an independent review of the situation of women in the governance and senior management of companies in Ireland and of measures to promote and to increase women’s representation, such as targets for business. Better Balance for Better Business fulfils this commitment in the National Strategy.


The National Strategy for Women and Girls 2017-2020 contains 139 actions to advance the equality of women and girls.  The Strategy includes actions to promote the socio-economic equality of women and girls, to advance their physical and mental wellbeing, to ensure their visibility in society and their equal and active citizenship, to advance women in leadership and decision-making and to combat violence against women.  Minister Stanton chairs the Strategy Committee which monitors implementation of the Strategy.


The Balance for Better Business report will be available for download on their website