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New legislation will ensure companies achieve gender balance on boards – Higgins

8th March 2023 - Emer Higgins, TD

New legislation will ensure companies achieve gender balance on boards and that women are represented at the highest levels of business, according to Fine Gael TD Emer Higgins.

Deputy Higgins introduced a Private Members Bill in the Dáil in 2021 which would require all Irish companies to have 33% of each gender on their board within a year of commencing the legislation, and 40% within three years.

Deputy Higgins said: “As we celebrate International Women’s Day, it’s critical that there is a renewed focus on removing barriers to female participation and progression in the workplace and achieving gender balance at the uppermost levels of businesses.

“I was delighted to receive confirmation today from my colleague, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, that Government has now agreed to bring forward legislation to provide gender balance on corporate boards.

“Ireland will take action ahead of an EU directive that will require companies to have 40% female non-executive directors or 33% among all directors by 2026. It is my hope that legislation is enacted well before the 2026 timeframe.

“This is broadly in line with the private members bill I brought forward in 2021 with a mandatory quota built on a ‘comply and explain’ model. It was extremely helpful and insightful to work in collaboration with the National Women’s Council of Ireland on the bill and the positive impact that boardroom quotas could have in Ireland.

“The latest report from Balance for Better Business revealed this week that while Irish businesses are continuing to make progress in achieving gender balance at board level, more work needs to be done to increase female representation in key decision-making roles.

“Women continue to be underrepresented in key board and leadership decision making positions. While women make up half of all Senior Independent Directors, representation of women in Chair roles has fallen from 8.1% in September 2022 to 2.8% this month, with no female Chairs among the ISEQ20.

“Boardroom gender quotas have already been successfully implemented in several European countries. They are advocated at EU level and were also a recommendation of the Citizens’ Assembly on gender equality back in 2021.

“There is such a strong business case for having better gender balance in the boardroom because diversity of thought around a leadership table produces better decisions – it’s best for governance, for risk and for decision-making.

“The McKinsey & Company Diversity Wins Report 2020 found that companies whose boards are in the top quartile of gender diversity are 28% more likely than their peers to outperform financially.

“Research and international experience speak for themselves – balanced boards are better for representation and the advancement of women in corporate world and also lead to better business and financial outcomes.

“There is a compelling need for legislation of this nature and I hope it will be brought forward and enacted without undue delay.”

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