‘Pushing the dial to move’ for women on a senior level in finance in Ireland

Ireland has dropped one place to ninth position among the most advanced countries globally in narrowing the gender gap, according to a report published by the World Economic Forum last year. Even so, fewer than one in five CEO positions in the financial sector in Ireland went to women in 2017 so there is clearly a need for continuous change.

Source: Women in Finance Dublin, Graphics: Financetales.com

Breda McCague, Co-Founder and Chairwoman @ Lean-In-Ireland and chairwoman for Women in Finance Dublin, has witnessed this throughout her 20 years working in financial services. “There seems to be an assumption that we have resolved the gender imbalance across our societies and everything has been ‘fixed’”, McCague says. It is important to champion the achievements that have been made – such as Ireland inclusion as a top 10 country narrowing the gender pay gap in 2018 – but the statistics mean also there is still a long way to go.

Statistics vs reality

“We all need to separate the perception from the reality and the statistics which tell us very clearly that we as a society have yet to balance the massive imbalance that still exists. According to the IMI report of 2018, in Ireland 60% of college graduates were female, yet only 19% of CEOs in Ireland are women”, she adds.

Source: IMI report, 2018 / Graphics: Financetales.com

According to research by the Central Bank of Ireland (CBI), approximately 80% of the most senior and influential appointments in regulated firms in Ireland between 2012 and 2016 were male.

Source: Central Bank of Ireland, Women in Finance

Support for gender quotas

Furthermore, despite growing support for gender quotas, recent research has shown a ‘worrying’ lack of planning for gender diversity in boardrooms. “The consensus is different from the reality”, said McCague, “the gender pay gap still exists, and the dial is still not moving, particularly for women on a senior level in finance.”

Michael D’Arcy, Minister of State at the Department of Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform, has acknowledged this gap and is working to fix it. “These figures demonstrate a significant gender imbalance in the submitted Pre-Approval Controlled Functions (PCF) applications, and indicate a continued lack of diversity at the most senior levels of regulated firms. “PCF applications from females increased to 22% in 2017 and to 24% in 2018. Although the figures are moving in the right direction, I am concerned about the lack of progress in this area.”

Source: Women in Finance World Series

The minister is currently working on improving gender balance in senior management with Ireland’s Women in Finance Charter as one of the main commitments of Ireland’s new Ireland for Finance (IFS) strategy. The Charter will be developed this year, and a number of IFS companies will be invited to sign it.

Gender gap

This gender gap has been acknowledged by Women in Finance World Series, an international conference portfolio who is launching an event The CCD, Dublin 12-13 September 2019. Women in Finance Dublin will feature speakers from across the sector including Minister Michael D’Arcy, Breda McCague, as well as industry leaders from Central Bank of Ireland, PayPal, Citi, Barclays, Deloitte and DEPFA Bank.

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