The proportion of women being appointed to the boards of Iseq 20 companies declined sharply last year, according to research from Heidrick & Struggles.
Of the new director seats filled at Ireland’s biggest Plcs last year, 31pc were taken by women.
The number of new board seats going to female executives here in 2020 fell considerably when compared to 2019, when 60pc of the seats in Ireland went to women.
That figure was 10pc higher than the European average at the time, the report from the US-based executive search firm shows.
In 2018, Ireland sat at the very bottom of the research with only 29pc of board appointments going to women.
“The drastic fall of female representation [last year] is primarily attributable to the fact that in Ireland the pool of Irish listed company directorships is much smaller than that of our European counterparts, so a few less female appointments each year can really sway the data,” Stafford Bagot, partner at Heidrick & Struggles, said.
“This year we have obviously plummeted down to the bottom again,” he added.
Out of the 14 countries in Europe that were analysed last year, boards in Denmark had the highest share of new female representation.
Earlier this year Paddy Power owner Flutter Entertainment made a number of non-executive changes to its management, the outcome of which will “enhance the gender balance” of its board, according to the group.
Among those appointed were Holly Koeppel and Nancy Dubuc.
Many Irish listed companies are increasingly willing to meet candidates for future board roles and building relationships with them while they are still in executive positions, according to Mr Bagot.
“This trend of a longer-lead time for board appointments offers a greater opportunity to ensure diversity is a central consideration in the appointment process – giving companies more scope to evaluate a wider pool of talent,” he added.
The share of seats going to retired directors in Ireland was one of the highest out of the countries analysed, at 61pc.
“The high percentage of retired executives at 61pc suggests that there is still a reliance on ‘traditional’ sources of directors on boards, even though they could benefit greatly by building broader and more diverse networks,” Mr Bagot said.
“2020 challenged boards in unprecedented ways, and many boards deemed the prioritising of directors with experience navigating crises such as the 2008 financial crash appropriate,” he added.