Business Irish

Thursday 22 February 2018

Executive gender gap spurs demand for women's quotas

Stock photo: PA
Stock photo: PA

Dearbhail McDonald and Colm Kelpie

A landmark study of women working in financial services in Ireland has revealed a "staggering" gap between women and men occupying senior executive roles in the sector, prompting calls for the introduction of gender targets.

The study commissioned by the 30% Club has revealed that 87pc of CEO positions are held by men, despite a 50/50 split of men and women working here in financial services.

In a finding that poses significant challenges to attitudes towards women working in financial services, one in five men said they believed "personal choice" is the biggest barrier to female career progression.

The study, published today, comes as separate research by the Irish Independent found that just 3pc of venture capital in Ireland goes to female-founded companies.

Yesterday the National Women's Council of Ireland called for laws to be introduced that oblige companies to publish pay information broken down by gender and called for the introduction of quotas to increase the representation of women on boards of private companies.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan told a Government symposium on gender pay that, over the past year, the gap has "gripped the public imagination as never before".

FBD chief executive Fiona Muldoon – one of only three female CEOs of an ISE-listed company – described the executive divide in Ireland’s financial sector as 'staggering'. Photo: Damien Eagers
FBD chief executive Fiona Muldoon – one of only three female CEOs of an ISE-listed company – described the executive divide in Ireland’s financial sector as 'staggering'. Photo: Damien Eagers

Mr Flanagan said there was an element of "injustice" in the current pay regime and that he was anxious to address that "imbalance".

Writing in today's 'Business Week', FBD chief executive Fiona Muldoon - one of only three female CEOs of an ISE-listed company - described the executive divide in Ireland's financial sector as "staggering".

"We urgently need to pick up the pace of change," writes Ms Muldoon, who says gender balance needs to be addressed more widely at executive level and all layers of management.

The survey, conducted on behalf of the 30% Club by Coyne Research, reveals that parents working in the sector believe flexibility with start and working times - as well as companies facilitating remote working - were the top policies companies should have in place.

But more than four out of 10 are afraid that if they avail of flexible working arrangements, it will harm their career.

The study found that only 3pc of men had taken advantage of a reduced schedule, where available, compared to 31pc of women.

Ms Muldoon said parents must be provided with real choices at all career levels.

The 30% Club survey, sponsored by AIB, polled 23 blue chip companies representing more than 42,000 employees across banking, fund services and insurance. In addition, 1,671 individuals took part.

Carol Andrews, MD of BNY Mellon, Ireland country lead for the 30% Club, said there are clear markers in the report as to how the gender deficit at senior levels in the financial services sector can be addressed.

Ms Andrews said while people are "naturally sensitive" to targets and quotas, they can provide a clearer path towards gender parity at senior levels.

"We believe they should be implemented at all management levels to ensure the pipeline is more balanced all the way up to the most senior executive level," she said.

Irish Independent

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