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European deal gives momentum to Irish campaign for gender equality on boards – Higgins

8th June 2022 - Emer Higgins, TD

Deputy Higgins said, “Achieving gender equality in the boardroom is a major ambition of mine, which is why I introduced the Corporate Governance (Gender Balance) Bill last year, to start working towards a quota of at least 40% women on our corporate boards in Ireland.

“I am now delighted that, after over 10 years of having this discussion at a European level, a deal to introduce 40% gender quotas at a board-room level has been agreed.

“This is a really significant development for gender equality in business and will mean that from June 30th 2026, large companies in the EU will have to make sure that their boards are comprised of at least 40% of the underrepresented sex, which we know is more often than not, women.

“This deal also sets a 33% target for women in all senior roles, including non-executive directors and directors, such as chief executive and chief operating officer, which I think is really significant and I hope it will lead to major progress in corporate gender balance at an EU level.

“Last year, women made up 30.6% of boardroom positions across the EU, but across the 27 member countries, this figure varies greatly.

“All the data shows us that we can no longer rely on corporate good will or sheer luck to improve the gender balance on our boards and within our companies. We need quotas to drive that change at both an EU and national level.

“This EU deal gives momentum to the campaign for gender equality on board here in Ireland. With the EU now working towards introducing quotas in 2026, I think it is the perfect time to advance my Bill, the Corporate Governance (Gender Balance) Bill 2021. There is no reason Ireland should be waiting until 2026; we need to get a head start and ensure we are more than ready to implement EU measures when they are introduced.

“By increasing the number of women in leadership positions, companies broaden their talent pool and ensure that women with the requisite experience can have a meaningful say in the decision-making process. This can lead to trickle-down benefits for women at all levels and for the company itself, which performs better financially with a more gender diverse board.

“Our boardrooms must be a better reflection of society today and we all have a role in breaking down unconscious biases and reinforced stereotypes that exist.”

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