Olivia McEvoy - Director, D&I Advisory Service
The glass ceiling is far from broken
We recently launched our latest EY report on Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) across the island of Ireland. The survey examined the current state of D&I across areas including gender and the gender pay gap, disability inclusion, leadership accountability and smart ways of working, among others. Much attention has focused on a singular finding which showed that among the cohort surveyed, female representation on boards averaged 31%, an increase of 5% since last year. Whilst this finding provides a snapshot of progress in relation to the gender composition of boards based on our sample of respondents, we need to be clear that the glass ceiling is far from broken. The survey on which our report was based was conducted amongst a voluntary sample of 150 respondents, who were drawn from both indigenous Irish and global organisations across the public and private sectors, varying in size and structure.
The criteria for a diverse and inclusive organisation are multi-faceted. However, the make-up of leadership teams and Boards of Directors is one of the first and most accessible aspects to be scrutinised by those inside and outside the organisation. Our finding on this question is based on an average of respondents who have either formal or informal board structures; however we appreciate that other findings on gender representation may differ and that the composition of boards varies hugely across individual companies, industries, sectors and types of organisation. Indeed, we look forward to further research on this matter, such as the forthcoming report from Balance for Better Business, which is set to be released in the coming weeks.
It’s incumbent upon us all to continue with rigour in our collective pursuit of real change across the entire spectrum of Diversity & Inclusion including gender, disability, and smart ways of working. We must create businesses that embrace the power of diversity, and give people of all genders, backgrounds and differences the opportunity and means to fulfil their ambitions and thrive in their careers.
Meaningful change across all businesses towards diverse leadership requires a strategic and transformative approach, with formal structures and leadership accountability. Boards, which should themselves be diverse, must also be key proponents and provide oversight to the agenda. Leadership accountability is one of the greatest game changers in achieving significant transformation. Progressing diversity, gender or otherwise, will not happen organically, and will require energy, commitment and hard work to get there.