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Government must introduce legislation for Gender Quotas on Boards

Published: Thursday, July 07, 2022

National Women’s Council calls on Government to support Deputy Higgins’ Private Members’ Bill on Board Gender Quotas
For Immediate release – Thursday 7th July 2022

Today (July 7th) the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWC) calls on the Government to support legislation which would introduce gender quotas for boards in Ireland. The Private Members Bill 2021 for Gender Quotas for Boards, brought forward by Fine Gael TD Emer Higgins, is today undergoing a second reading in the Dail.

NWC ‘Balance the Odds’ campaign to increase women’s representation on corporate boards is a critical campaign for women’s equality. The proposed Private Members’ Bill includes a 33% quota for women on boards, rising to 40 % after three years, and introduces possible sanctions for companies that fail to comply with the gender quota. Targets were recently introduced at an EU level and from 2026, at least 40% of the underrepresented gender must be represented in non-executive boards of listed companies or 33% among all directors.

Orla O’Connor, Director of NWC said,

“NWC has consistently called for gender quotas to increase the representation of women across all sectors of society. This Bill is significant in that it introduces a gender quota of 40% for boards and outlines clear sanctions for companies that do not meet this minimum. This legislation has real potential to improve women’s representation on boards and subsequent leadership in the corporate world.

Evidence indicates that all-male boards and executive director appointments continue to be stubbornly resistant to change. The lack of women in leadership positions means women are excluded from the rooms of power, where key decisions affecting their lives are made. This has serious consequences for their lives and entrenches gender inequalities. These inequalities have been further amplified in by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Amid increased caring responsibilities and evidence suggesting that many women have had to either leave the labour market or are downshifting their careers, companies risk losing women in leadership – and future women leaders – and unwinding years of painstaking progress towards gender equality.
Quotas redistribute power at the top of the labour market, which results in significant trickle-down benefits, both in terms of improving financial performance but also for women at all levels in a company. Deputy Higgins legislation is a key step in ensuring that women are present in our boardrooms and fully aligns with NWC’s ‘Balance the Odds’ campaign. It is critical the Government follows the example set by the EU targets for gender-quotas and implements this legislation without delay. “

Emma DeSouza, Women in Leadership Co-ordinator with NWC said:

“Ireland needs the introduction of gender quotas as it’s clear that a voluntary, target-led approach is not making the necessary progress to increase women’s representation on boards. There is robust international evidence showing legislative quotas are an effective and powerful solution to this. France, Germany, Italy and Netherlands have adopted such quotas, and this has significantly influenced the number of women on boards, the performance and outcomes of decision-making bodies and broader public attitudes.

After over 10 years of having this discussion at a European level, the directive to introduce 40% of the underrepresented sex at board room level has finally been agreed. This is a significant development for gender equality in business. Now is the time for ambitious and urgent change.”


For more information, contact Vicky Masterson, Digital Campaigns & Communications Officer 087 100 0385 or Cath Hearn, Digital Campaigns & Fundraising Officer 085 861 9087

Notes to Editor:

NWC’s Report Increasing Gender Balance on Boards: The case for Legislative Gender Quotas in Ireland, 2021 can be accessed here: https://www.nwci.ie/images/uploads/WomenOnBoardsReport.pdf

NWC’s campaign for Board gender quotas is funded by the Community Foundations Ireland (CFI).

About NWC
The National Women’s Council is the leading national representative organisation for women and women’s groups in Ireland, founded in 1973. We have over 190 member groups and a large and growing community of individual supporters. The ambition of the National Women’s Council is an Ireland where every woman enjoys true equality and no woman is left behind. This ambition shapes and informs our work, and, with our living values, how we work. We are a movement-building organisation rooted in our membership, working on the whole island of Ireland. We are also part of the international movement to protect and advance women’s and girls’ rights. Our purpose is to lead action for the achievement of women’s and girls’ equality through mobilising, influencing, and building solidarity.