If we were ever in doubt about the need for gender balance at boardroom level, it is now clear that the laddish, boorish, testosterone attitudes of some boardrooms in Ireland must be changed and changed radically.
It is shocking to read of the attitude of some of the directors in the Anglo Tapes to two high level women (unnamed) and how they were spoken of.
The Institute of Directors has been saying for some time that there is a real need for change in Ireland at boardroom level. I personally feel there has to be either gender targets of gender quotas in place for a period of time to put in place a “correction” of the current imbalance, and then to remove the target or quota.
There is a need for all boards to have the correct balance of gender, and the right skills set to ensure that good governance is achieved and clear strategy and direction given to companies. A diversity of skills and gender balance is what is needed.
A research report released by the IOD in March 2013, ‘Women on boards in Ireland – Insights from women directors on the progress made and obstacles remaining’, outlining the views of women members of the Institute of Directors in Ireland (IoD), has found that, while progress has been made in relation to improving gender diversity on boards, women believe that greater transparency in the appointment process is needed to increase the number of women on boards in Ireland.
Some of the outcomes of that report include:
- 58% of women say that gender diversity on the board on which they sit has improved in the last five years;
- Over a third (37%) say that gender diversity is either a medium, or high priority, for their board;
- 68% of women surveyed have undertaken formal director training;
- 94% of women surveyed feel equal in the boardroom;
- Majority of women believe it is more difficult for women to become non-executive directors than men;
- 55% say women do not have equal access to information about available directorship positions;
- 72% say greater transparency in the appointment process is needed to enable more women to be appointed as directors in Ireland;
- 4 in 5 say women themselves need to take some responsibility for the low level of women on boards in Ireland.
The appointment process needs radical overhauling in terms of transparency and the need for the smashing of any type of ‘golden circle’ of men who either went to the same school, played the same sports, or lived in the same neighbourhood should cease immediately.
The TASC report of 2010 called ‘Mapping the Golden Circle’ in its summary highlights some of the following:
- A network of 39 individuals held powerful positions in 33 of 40 top public organisations and private Irish businesses in three of the critical Celtic Tiger years (2005-2007), and held more than 93 directorships between them in these companies during this period; as well as an average of ten directorships each in other companies.
- Focused on the years 2005-2007, the research shows that each of the 39 members of this ‘Director Network’ held multiple directorships on at least two boards across 33 of the 40 companies concerned.
- More than a quarter (eleven) of the 39 members of the Director Network were particularly well-connected. They had ten or more links, via these multiple directorships, to other members of this network and/or sat on three, four or even five boards of the top 40 companies simultaneously.
- In addition to holding multiple directorships, a significant proportion of the Director Network held very senior full-time positions, either as CEOs or executive directors or equivalent positions.
- Over half of the members of the Director Network held board positions in at least one of Ireland’s four largest financial institutions: Anglo Irish Bank, AIB, Bank of Ireland and Irish Life and Permanent. The three most tightly-interwoven of all 40 boards were all financial institutions.
- The research demonstrates a significant lack of diversity among members of the Director Network; for example, only one in nine directors was a woman. Severe gender imbalance and similarities in world view and experience may lead to persistent ‘groupthink’; that is decision-making that ignores alternative evidence as a result of a group’s desire to reach consensus. One major contributing factor to this is where group members all come from similar backgrounds.
We know now too clearly that this was right!