Corporate board quotas could significantly improve situation for women in business

Speaking in advance of the ‘How to Elect More Women Conference’ which is being held today (Friday) at Dublin Castle, Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire Deputy, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, said that while the Government is committed to the greater engagement of women in Irish political life, it must also consider the situation for women in the world of business.

“In 2003, a 40% gender quota for public limited, State-owned and inter-municipality companies was introduced in Norway. It resulted in female representation on corporate boards going from 15.9% to the stated target of 40% four years later.

“The Irish Government, through the Electoral Amendment Bill, is committed to addressing the low number of women going forward for election in this country. Similar to Irish female representation in politics, however, Irish female representation on corporate boards is dismal. Women make up only 8% of senior positions on Irish listed companies, compared to 15.25% in the Dáil and 17% in local government.

“The quota system introduced in Norway gave companies a grace period to reach the 40% target and imposed tough sanctions for companies that failed to implement the quota. Studies have shown that the Norwegian model has been a success there and has gained broad acceptance. Legislated board quotas have since been introduced in Spain (2007), France and the Netherlands (2010) with quotas for public limited companies currently under discussion in Belgium, Canada and Italy, where laws are pending at different stages of the ratification process.

“There are numerous issues that impede women from advancing in the world of business and politics such as childcare, cash, confidence and culture. In the coming weeks we will introduce a gender quota for women in politics. If the Government sought to address the situation in respect of female representation on corporate boards, we would see infinitely more opportunities open up for the female population.

“I will be suggesting to the Minster for the Environment that the Government legislates for a Corporate Board Quota, similar to Norway, to compliment the candidate political party gender quota proposed in the Electoral Amendment Bill.”

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