New Bill will pave the way for better representation of women in leadership roles – Higgins

Deputy Emer Higgins introduces boardroom gender balance Bill in the Dáil

6th October 2021 - Emer Higgins, TD

A new Bill to establish a 40% quota for female representation on company boards will be introduced in the Dáil today and will pave the way for better representation of women in leadership roles, according to Fine Gael TD Emer Higgins.

Deputy Higgins will today (Tuesday) introduce her Private Members Bill which seeks to legislate for gender balance on company boards, a measure which has already been adopted by several European countries and was recommended by the Citizens’ Assembly on Gender Equality earlier this year.

Deputy Higgins said: “Just a few weeks ago I launched my Bill in collaboration with the National Women’s Council and I had really successful engagement with a range of business groups and women’s networks. They were all in agreement that the advancement of inclusion in business and the presence of gender balance in our boardrooms is an issue on which we must take action.

“So I’m really delighted to be introducing this Bill in the Dáil today and taking another step towards achieving gender balance in the corporate world.

“Fine Gael in Government has done more than any other Party before it in terms of gender equality in politics, including the introduction of gender quotas at national elections and the introduction of financial incentives to encourage parties to run more female candidates at local elections.

“We established a Citizens’ Assembly on Gender Equality and developed a National Strategy for Women and Girls.

“We have committed to a referendum on Article 41.2 of the Constitution and also established Women’s Health Taskforce.

“We have legislated to require publication of the gender pay gap in large companies and now my Bill seeks to take that next step for gender equality and bring about gender balance on corporate boards.

“Women account for just 22.4% of board members of Irish listed companies as of September 2020. A shocking 19% of Irish listed companies had no female directors at all, according to a recent report from the National Women’s Council[1].

“The international experience also tells us that legislative gender quotas in boardrooms, rather than non-legislative targets, is the quickest and most effective way to improve the gender balance in corporate boardrooms,” said Deputy Higgins.

“In terms of the technicalities of the Bill, The Irish Corporate Governance (Gender Balance) Bill 2021 will make provision for the regulation of gender balance on the boards and governing councils of corporate bodies and other named bodies.

“It will provide for gender quotas at a boardroom level and require companies to have 33 per cent of each gender present on their board within a year of commencing the legislation, and 40 per cent within 3 years.

“The quota would be mandatory, but it’s built on the ‘comply and explain’ model. So companies who do not meet the quotas have the opportunity to explain why they could not meet them before any action is taken to compel compliance.

“Gender quotas are shown to broaden the talent pool available to employers and ensure that boards don’t just seek to replace exiting board members with the same profile as the previous person, who is usually a man.

“Companies with balanced boards make better business decisions and are shown to perform better financially, leading to trickle-down benefits for women at all levels and for the company itself [2],” continued Deputy Higgins.

“This will take a combined effort from all in the political and business sector, no matter their gender, to ensure female representation on company boards is fairly represented.

“It’s my ambition that this Bill will create the opportunity for both men and women to be fairly represented at the top table of businesses and ultimately achieve better balance in the boardroom,” concluded Deputy Higgins.


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