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Minister McGrath publishes new guidance for State Boards: “Enhancing Gender balance in State Board membership an important contribution to more effective governance"

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath TD, today (Thursday) published a new Annex on Gender Balance, Diversity, and Inclusion to supplement the existing Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies.

The Annex sets out measures designed to enhance diversity on State Boards and addresses recommendations made by an Inter-Departmental Group on Gender Balance on State Boards.

That report  found that further work was required to build on recent improvements in gender balance on the Boards of State bodies.

The Annex includes:

- New reporting measures designed to provide greater transparency around Boards which have not reached appropriate levels of gender balance;

- State bodies which have not reached the 40% target will be required to set out the measures that will be taken to deliver on this target;

- Ministers to be informed of the gender balance on State Boards at the time of making further appointments;

- Each State Board to report annually on its progress in promoting equality, diversity and inclusion within the organisation;

- Board evaluation processes should be expanded to consider issues around gender diversity, as a means of enhancing Board effectiveness;

- Board terms should be varied to allow for an acceleration towards better gender balance in membership.

Speaking today the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Michael McGrath TD said

This is the first major enhancement to the 2016 Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies. Although there has been very good progress in improving gender equality in State boards, still, as of last year approximately 40% of State Boards did not yet meet this requirement. Ireland is making good progress at achieving gender balance on State boards, but the progress is uneven and is far from complete. We need to do more. Balanced and diverse boards give our State bodies access to a broader range of experiences, perspectives and skillsets. This strengthens Board independence and reduces the likelihood of ‘groupthink’.

Minister McGrath added:

As Minister for Public Expenditure & Reform, I will advance equality, inclusion and public wellbeing in Budget 2021, when I will be providing further details of progress in equality budgeting, and in shaping our budgets by reference to the wellbeing of the nation.

 Notes for Editors

1. In 2019 the Government established an inter-Departmental Group to report on gender balance in state bodies. 2. That report noted significant progress in recent years to improved gender equality on state boards. The overarching target is that each State Board should have at least 40% representation from each gender. In July 2018, the 40% target was met for the first time in respect of average board membership, when women held 40.7% of the membership of State boards. In December 2018, the average gender balance across all State Boards stood at 41.5% female and 58.5% male members. 3. However, the report noted that less than half 48% of individual Boards had met the 40% target. 4. That report provided for a number of measures to enhance gender equality. A number of these measures relate to governance issues. The full set of changes are set out in an annex to the code of governance. 5. The Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies is highly regarded and is now well-established as the ‘bible’ of corporate governance in the public sphere. The new Annex on Gender Balance, Diversity and Inclusion ensures that the governance code remains updated in line with best international standards, and will strengthen the pressure on all State Boards to accelerate progress towards full gender balance, as well as promoting a culture of diversity and inclusion more generally throughout each organisation.