Gender Balance now firmly back on the Business Agenda

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Last week, the House of the Oireachtas passed the Gender Pay Gap Information Bill, which means the legislation will now be sent forward to President Michael D. Higgins for consideration.  In this week’s article, Derek McKay, Managing Director of Adare Human Resource Management looks at the implications for the legislation on employers and assesses where Ireland is currently at in terms of achieving gender balance.

The Gender Pay Gay Information Bill 2019 has been in discussion for some time. As far back September 2019, the Bill had been widely discussed with commitments at the time that the Bill would be enacted as early as January 2020.

However, it is finally here and based on the latest data published by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) as part of its Gender Balance in Business survey, it is a very welcome development.

According to the CSO data, just one in ten (30%) of Senior Executives in large Irish enterprises were female. And just over one in ten (13%) CEOs were female. However, in some slightly better news, female representation on Boards has increased from 20% to 22%.

But why don’t we see more women in top positions? And what can we do to help improve female representation at senior levels?

Historically we know certain sectors in particular have been seen as male dominated and has been slow to change to-date. One the most stated reasons impacting potential female participation and promotion is the decision to start a family.. There is agreement that more must be done to get more balance, particularly at senior level, but how to achieve this is something that continues to be debated.

The new Bill is a starting point when implemented (most likely 2022) but certainly isn’t a silver bullet. It will require businesses, larger ones of 250 plus employees initially,

  • to analyse and publicly report the pay gap between its male and female employees, including bonuses.
  • to publish a statement setting out the reasons for the differences and any proposed actions to be taken by the employer to eliminate the gap. This element is seen as crucial as it sets out the narrative the employer is putting forward, which can help or hinder its efforts to attract talent, particularly female talent.

However, to achieve a more meaningful gender balance, a holistic approach must be taken. Awareness is just step one; practical policies and practices should be put in place to back up the intention for real change.

There is a need to implement measurable, practical strategies to shift the scales in favour of a fairer and more transparent gender balance landscape, including setting meaningful targets for change and involving both genders to deliver a better balance.

In addition to the ethical argument for gender balance, there are additional far-reaching benefits to an equal opportunity workplace. We know getting the balance right across organisations drives a more successful and cohesive business environment for everybody. This includes growth in revenue/ fundraising and ultimately success. It creates better workplaces and better decision making led by an engaged workforce with opportunities for everyone.

Of course, for change to happen, the workplace must become a more welcoming environment for both men and women. Balance is not exclusively a women’s issue, it involves everyone from the top down, and success in shifting the dial comes when balance is embraced by all. There are so many practical initiatives that can be introduced, but these cannot just be targeted at women: there must be a universal approach.

Gender balance is about changing the dynamic towards a more inclusive working environment without instilling fear that the pendulum will swing too far in the opposite direction. Ultimately, it’s about fairness and equality, something every employer should be striving for in their organisation.

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For further information on the HR and Employment Law support services provided, to arrange a meeting or to receive a quote, contact the team at Shannon Chamber – / 061 360 611