Numerous studies have demonstrated how gender-balanced leadership teams can help businesses grow and flourish globally, yet Irish companies are a long way from achieving gender balance in senior teams.
To highlight this issue and to help companies enhance their gender balance in leadership, Enterprise Ireland has launched The Level Project, an initiative that includes a practical online action planning toolkit.
Free to all companies, this toolkit helps companies assess their current situation and put in place real actions to enhance gender balance in senior teams.
The Level Project has its origins in Enterprise Ireland’s action plan for women in business, which recognised that increasing the number of women in middle and senior management and on boards leads to more successful, sustainable, and profitable businesses.
In addition, the plan saw considerable economic benefits that lie untapped in women in their roles both as customers and as talent. In essence, by achieving gender balance, a company is tapping into 100pc of the talent pool and 100pc of the market.
Achieving gender balance is more challenging in some industries than others, but simply taking some steps to enhance the gender balance of your leadership team can have tangible benefits for your business.
For example, visibly championing gender balance can have a positive effect on attracting and retaining talent. Gender balance in leadership also leads to increased creativity and innovation, thanks to the diversity in thought and mindset and a greater understanding of your customer base.
These advantages are already being experienced by four early champions of The Level Project.
VRAI is a fast-growing tech firm in the field of data-driven VR simulation training and believes that a diversity of mindset is essential to help mitigate the complexity of what they are trying to achieve.
Similarly, Spearline, a leader in telecommunication technology, credits a better understanding of its diverse customer base to diversity within their senior teams.
For CLS, Ireland’s largest contract laboratory, having gender balance throughout the company, especially in leadership teams, creates harmony in the workplace, which can only lead to success.
However, achieving gender balance is very much a long-term plan for many companies, especially those in traditionally male-dominated industries.
For example, Shannon-based Modular Automation has recognised that gender balance is hard to reach if girls do not see engineering as a viable career choice in school. Therefore, a key part of their strategy is demonstrating the advantages of studying engineering to girls at the Junior Cert stage and lower.
All four of these firms have implemented genuine strategies to enhance gender balance in senior leadership. While they recognise this is a long-term project, the advantages of such strategies are already being experienced.
A crucial part of The Level Project is the action planning toolkit, suitable for big and small companies, whether they are just starting on their gender balance journey or want to improve and target their efforts even further.
The toolkit consists of six themes (strategy, attract, retain, develop, engage, measure), each divided into two levels according to how advanced a company is. We recommend that every company should start with the strategy theme.
A series of questions are included within each theme; answering ‘No’ to a question presents the user with suggested actions to include in their plan.
Each theme also contains links to helpful resources such as guides, templates and expert insights. Once finished, an editable action plan for the company can be downloaded, including all the chosen actions and space for notes.
All companies can use the online toolkit free of charge; however Enterprise Ireland client companies can also apply for several supports to help develop and implement their gender balance plan.
More information on The Level Project, including access to the action planning toolkit, case studies on our four champions and details of financial supports available, can be found at www.levelproject.ie
Sheelagh Daly, entrepreneurship manager at Enterprise Ireland