Women on State Boards

A State Board is a body controlled by the State to which the State appoints the majority of members or otherwise exercises control.

Following the publication of the second Report on the Status of Women in 1992, the then Government committed to take steps to increase the representation of women on state boards, as a step to bring women into more prominent roles in decision-making. The then Government was committed to achieving a minimum of 40 per cent representation of women on State Boards in order to foster an increase in women's participation in decision making, a commitment which has been reiterated in the current Programme for National Recovery.

There was some progress but, in a renewed effort to achieve the target in July 2002, all Ministers agreed to review the gender balance composition of the State Boards and committees under the aegis of their Department and to take measures to redress gender imbalances where the 40 per cent target has not been reached.  It was further agreed that the then Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform would monitor the statistics and report on progress to Government annually.

In January 2005, the Government further decided all nominating Bodies should be required to nominate both male and female candidates for those appointments to State Boards where they are the responsible authority.

In December 2007, Ministers agreed to continue to take proactive steps to ensure that their nominations, and the nominations made by external Bodies, to Boards under the aegis of their Departments, continue to reflect the Government’s commitment to achieve representation of at least 40 per cent by persons of each gender on State Boards, in order to advance the goal of equal participation of women and men in decision-making. All Ministers were requested to put in place the necessary procedures to implement the Government decisions. Progress on this issue is reported to Government regularly.

In December 2009, Ministers reaffirmed the commitment to increase female participation in decision making towards the internationally recommended norm of 40 per cent. All Ministers agreed to take proactive measures in Departments to work to achieve that target for female participation on State Boards.

In March 2011 the incoming Government in its’ ‘Programme for the Government of National Recovery’ announced that it would also take steps to ensure that all State boards have at least 40% of each gender. In a further development, the Government took the decision to publish details of vacancies on these boards and to invite applications.  However Ministers are not obliged to make the selection from those who apply.  These vacancies are frequently advertised on Departmental websites and on www.publicjobs.ie.

Current Situation

The most recent Government decision taken in July 2014

Minister of State with responsibility for Equality, New Communities and Culture Mr. Aodhán Ó Ríordáin T.D., has received the approval of the Government to take new measures to promote gender equality on State Boards.

A target of achieving a minimum of 40 per cent representation of both women and men on all State Boards was set originally in 1993. At 36.2 per cent overall, the 2013 data for female representation on State Boards show a very positive step forward over previous years which had been averaged at 34 per cent.  However, a number of Departments fall below this average and there remains significant under-representation of both sexes on certain Boards.

The Government has therefore approved new measures to promote gender balance on State Boards, reaffirming its commitment to achieve the target of 40 per cent representation of each gender on all State Boards within the lifetime of the current Programme for Government.

Minister of State Ó Ríordáin welcomed progress reflected in the 2013 figures and the arrangements now being put in place commenting that

“Meeting the 40% target by 2016 is a specific commitment of this Government and we are now requiring each Government Department to plan how it intends to achieve this. These new measures will be accompanied by closer monitoring, with each Government Department to report on a six-monthly basis on their progress”.

Addressing the under-representation of women on State Boards, Minister Ó Ríordáin highlighted a new initiative to be developed in the Department of Justice and Equality to assist in the sourcing of suitably qualified female candidates for appointment to State Boards. Minister Ó Ríordáin said

“I am very pleased to announce that the Department will undertake a pilot project to develop a talent bank of women who would be prepared to serve on State Boards, as a resource to be made available to Ministers and other nominating bodies in meeting this target”.

The development of such a talent bank had been included as a recommendation in two reports associated with the implementation of the National Women’s Strategy 2007-2016. The Mid-Term Review of the National Women’s Strategy and Towards Gender Parity in Decision-Making in Ireland were prepared by the Monitoring Committee of the National Women’s Strategy chaired by the Minister of State formerly with responsibility for Equality, Ms. Kathleen Lynch, T.D.

The Minister believes that the implementation of these new measures will have a positive impact on gender-balance on State Boards and looks forward to working in close co-operation with his Ministerial colleagues to achieve this Programme for Government commitment.

The Talent Bank will be developed by the Department of Justice and Equality, with EU Progress funding and with the assistance of the Public Appointments Service (PAS) through its existing resource www.stateboards.ie.

The Public Appointments Service is the centralised provider of recruitment, assessment and selection services for the Civil Service. PAS also provides recruitment and consultancy services to local authorities, the Health Service Executive, an Garda Siochana and other public bodies.

Material supplied by government departments in respect of 2013 has been collated and is below. It should be noted that the number of boards varies from year to year. For example, 2013 data refers to a total 248 state boards, eight more than 2012.

The following are the key statistics in relation to membership of State Boards serving on 31 December, 2013:

Total No. of State Boards included

248

Total No. of positions on these State Boards

2,673

Total No. of female members on these State Boards

967

Women’s participation rate on State Boards

36.2%

The No. of female chairpersons

23.4%