Reversing the paradox: Promoting gender-balanced leadership

On 27 May 2015 Ibec and the Department of Justice and Equality jointly hosted a major conference in the Mansion House Dublin to actively promote gender-balanced leadership in Ireland.

The event was opened by Ibec CEO, Danny McCoy and the Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald, T.D. The conference was moderated by the well-known journalist, Dearbhail McDonald and  featured contributions from influential leaders from both the public and private sectors.

 Minister Fitzgerand & Danny McCoy

Gender balance has been proven to increase profits, return on sales, return on equity, innovation and problem-solving. Yet while much progress has been made in putting women and men on an equal footing in the workplace, today in Ireland as in Europe, women continue to be under-represented in corporate and political life. This paradox is an economy wide issue and one which is increasingly recognised at a global level. In Ireland it is at its widest at the very top where less than 10% of companies in Ireland have a female on their board. At the current pace we are progressing, female executive representation across Europe is unlikely to reach 20% until 2035.

Women represent an enormous opportunity for business not least because they represent more than half of the educated talent on the planet and are the majority of consumers and end-users in an ever-widening array of sectors. Women’s labour market participation and consumer activity is boosting growth in the economy with Goldman Sachs calculating that closing the gap between male and female participation rates would boost Eurozone GDP by as much as 13%.

 Minister Fitzgerald Speech

Significant effort has been made over the years to address inequality and remove any explicit discrimination in our system. But to accelerate the rate of change and achieve real success, we need to engage both men and women to make changes to the organisational norms and structures that maintain gender gaps. In the past this situation was viewed as a “women’s issue” and organisations tried to address gender balance from an ethical standpoint, by helping women ‘fit in’. Today that has changed and gender balance is rightly viewed as a strategic business issue and a leadership challenge, one that only a naïve employer would ignore.

The conference allowed for a solutions focused debate bringing together practitioners and delegates to discuss the challenges posed and highlight strategies for nurturing gender-balanced leadership and proactively building your talent pipeline.
 
The conference received generous funding from the European Union under its PROGRESS programme (2007-2013).

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