Female directorship on Irish boards is trending very positively and was up to 29% of board seats of Irish listed PLCs in 2020, up from 25% last year and 19% in 2018.

This seems to be an international trend. In the U.S the percentage of women on corporate boards of directors is climbing, with women gaining seats at a faster rate than men, and women of colour advancing faster than any other group or gender. 2020 Women on Boards, a non-profit group that advocates for increasing the number of women directors on corporate boards, said women now hold 22.6% of the board seats among the nation’s largest publicly traded companies in the Russell 3000 Index, a 2.2 percentage increase from 20.4% in 2019, and a 6.5 percentage increase over four years.

The increase in the share of women on Irish corporate boards is dominated by a handful of senior executives who have broken through the glass ceiling. A quarter of top board seats occupied by women in Ireland are held by a core group of just nine people, according to the Irish Independent.

Women held just 8pc of directorships in stock market-listed companies in 2013, but that has increased steadily year on year under intense pressure from corporate governance experts, regulators and lobby groups like Women on Boards and The 30pc Club.

The 30% Club Ireland officially launched in January 2015, with a goal to achieve better gender balance at all levels in leading Irish businesses. The 30% Club believes that gender balance on boards and executive leadership not only encourages better leadership and governance, but further contributes to better all-round board performance, and ultimately increased corporate performance for both companies and their shareholders.

The 30% Club is a collaborative business-led effort to make real change in Ireland, aiming towards 30% female representation in senior management by 2020.

However, 35% of Irish listed companies currently have no female directors on their board. Comparing this to the UK, Ireland falls behind our nearest neighbour, where 27.5% of FTSE 250 board positions are now held by women. Globally, women hold just 4.4% of CEO positions and just 12.7% of CFO roles.

While the EU has been attempting to boost the number of women sitting on boards over the last decade, it’s clear that there is a long way to go until this issue has been fully addressed.

NB – This is a guide for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have an issue requiring legal advice, please contact any of the team at Nolan Farrell & Goff, whose numbers can be found on our website, www.nfg.ie