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Ministers Flanagan and Stanton report progress on female representation on State Boards

  • - Female membership now at record 40.7%
  • - Interdepartmental group to report by March 2019 on best practice which could be adopted across Government

The Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan TD, and the Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration, David Stanton TD, have today announced that the female share of State Board membership is now 40.7%, an increase of 2.3 percentage points over the last return in February 2017. This is the first time that the 40% figure has been surpassed and compares to an average figure of 18% on the boards of ISEQ20 companies. The findings are the result of survey of all State Boards carried out by the Department of Justice and Equality in July 2018.

Minister Flanagan said: “I am pleased to note that the average gender balance across all State Boards now stands at 40.7% female. This is the highest female representation to date. It is also important to note however that this is just an average. The Programme for a Partnership Government commits to every State Board reaching the 40% target, yet only 48.9% of boards currently do so. I do not believe that sufficient progress has been made in some sectors. It is particularly disappointing that there remains 11 single gender boards with no female representation. This is something which must be addressed.”

Women were appointed to 52% of the 203 appointments made to State Boards last year. However, such appointments generally amount to only about a third of State Board positions filled. Other positons are filled ex-officio, by reappointment or on the nomination of external bodies. Of particular concern are positions filled through external nominations and reappointments, which do not go through PAS. In some sectors the proportion of appointments that have gone to women in the last 18 months is as low as one in four. It is also of concern that women’s representation as chairs of State Boards is at just 27.5%, lagging significantly behind their average level of representation on the boards.

In order to deal with these concerns, the Government has agreed to a proposal from Ministers Flanagan and Stanton that the Department of Justice and Equality will chair an interdepartmental group to identify and report on best practices which could be adopted across Government. Membership of the group will include Departments which are on the National Strategy for Women and Girls Committee and have boards under their aegis and the Public Appointments Service.

Minister Stanton added: “Gender balance will not be achieved on State Boards unless a climate is created in each sector where both women and men feel encouraged to apply. Minister Flanagan and I believe there is merit in examining what constitutes best practice in this area and spreading it throughout Government. This interdepartmental group will consider measures including those highlighted in the National Strategy for Women and Girls, identify best practice and consider how to mainstream such practice.”

It is intended that the group will report by the end of March 2019. The Ministers will then bring the report to Government with recommendations on actions to be taken by Government departments and agencies and an accompanying implementation plan.

Note for editors:

It has been an ongoing commitment of Government to increase the female representation on State Boards, with a goal to appoint women to at least 40% of such positions in place since 1992.

The gender breakdown of board members, across all boards, is now 40.7% female and 59.3% male. This is the highest female representation since the target was introduced, and an increase of 2.3 percentage points over February 2017.

Between 1995 and 2005 the average representation of women across all boards increased by almost 12 percentage points, from 22.0% in 1995 to 33.6% in December 2005, when almost one third of boards had achieved 40% representation of each gender. By December 2013, 38.7% of boards had achieved the 40% target, while 36.2% of all board members were female.

Departments are regularly surveyed and asked to provide a breakdown by gender of the serving membership and recent appointments to each State Board under their aegis. The most recent surveys were conducted in December 2017 and July 2018.

The key findings from the latest survey are as follows:

· There were 231 State Boards, which range in size from 1 to 40 members. Of these, 2 boards were vacant.
· With the exception of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, each Department has at least one board under its aegis. The Departments with the greatest numbers of boards are Education and Skills (48 boards) and Health (49 boards).
· 112 (48.9%) of the boards with serving members have met the 40% target, while 48 of these have met the enhanced 45% target.
· Excluding the National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission (a single member board), as of 24 July 2018 there were still 11 single-gender boards which have no female representation. There are no boards without male representation.

The boards in question (with no female representation) are as follows:

Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government
· Gas Networks Ireland (3 serving members, 3 vacancies)
· Irish Water (5 serving members, 7 vacancies)

Department of Education and Skills
· Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies Council (1 serving member, 9 vacancies)

Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment
· Commission for Communications Regulation (3 serving members, no vacancies)
· Irish National Petroleum Corporation (3 serving members, no vacancies)
· The Mining Board (3 serving members, no vacancies)

Department of Justice and Equality
· Garda Arbitration Board (3 serving members, no vacancies)

Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport
· Galway Harbour Company (5 serving members, 3 vacancies)
· New Ross Port Company (4 serving members, 4 vacancies)
· Shannon Foynes Port Company (6 serving members, 2 vacancies)

Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
· National Milk Agency (13 serving members, 1 vacancy)

Of 1,011 appointments made between 25 February 2017 and 24 July 2018, 428 (42.3%) went to women. This compares to women having been appointed to 41.2% of the total of 2,301 board positions filled between January 2014 and February 2017, and 42.8% of the appointments made during 2013.

In the case of 6 Departments, women accounted for less than 40% of board appointments made since February 2017. These were:

Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (25 of 96 appointments, or 26.0%);
Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government (18 of 59 appointments, or 30.5%);
Department of the Taoiseach (11 of 34 appointments, or 32.4%);
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (18 women from 54 appointments, or 33.3%);
Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (4 of 12 appointments, or 33.3%); and
Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (3 of 8 appointments, or 37.5%).