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Gender quotas only way to achieve balance in workplace, says Irish social enterprise leader

Posted February 09, 2017

  • Number of female CEOs in companies in Ireland has declined to 14 per cent
  • 'Bias responsible for lack of female representation in senior management positions'

Fewer women are reaching senior management-level positions in the Irish business sector, according to Tina Roche, CEO of the philanthropic advisory organisation, The Community Foundation for Ireland.

Speaking at the second Arthur Cox UCD Women in Leadership Conference, sponsored by Arthur Cox, Ms Roche (pictured) said the decline in female representation at the highest levels in Irish companies was because of “bias” against women in the workplace.

She said that gender quotas are the only way to achieve gender balance in the professional sectors in Ireland.

Ms Roche, who is also CEO of Corporate Social Responsibility network, Business in the Community Ireland, pointed out that the latest statistics show that only 14 per cent of CEOs of companies in Ireland were women.

Ms Roche said the results, published by the 30% Club Ireland, show a steady decline in the participation of women in the higher ranks of management.

Women comprise just over one-third (34%) of managers at level 2 management positions – three levels down from the CEO.

This representation falls to 30% at level 1, generally two positions under the CEO and to 23% at executive, director or group level managers, generally one level down from the CEO.

The aim of the 30% Club Ireland, launched in 2015, is to achieve 30% female representation in senior management-level positions in Ireland by 2020.

“To me, there is only one thing for it and we should all be talking about it – that’s quotas,” said Ms Roche.

“I am 27 years talking about women in leadership and it’s still the same. The pace of change is glacial. It is not good enough – we have to change!

“I heard back 25 years ago that it was childcare [that was holding women back] – that we don’t have the confidence, all the stereotypical things. It isn’t; it’s bias, it’s unconscious bias, it is the fact that we are stopped from being CEOs.”

Ms Roche won Tatler’s Public Life Award in 2008 and was shortlisted for a Women Mean Business award the same year. In 2011, she was named in the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behaviour by Trust Across America.

The list recognises individuals representing the private sector, academia and non-profit entities who are making outstanding contributions in championing business, social and environmental change, in a transparent and justifiable way.

Now in its second year, the UCD Women in Leadership Conference aims to empower women through leadership lectures and panels to foster growth in their careers. It also seeks to help break the glass ceiling that still exists for professional women in Ireland today.

The UCD Women in Leadership Conference was supported by UCD Alumni Relations, UCD Societies Council, Arthur Cox, Aldi, Boston Scientific and Citi.

By: Jamie Deasy, digital journalist, UCD University Relations