Wednesday, 11 October 2006
Equal Opportunities Employment.
Question 14: To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will report on the percentage of board members of registered companies who are women; if his attention has been drawn to the success of Scandinavian regulations regarding gender balance on company boards whereby companies may be wound up if they do not have at least 40% of each gender on their board by 2008; if he intends to introduce similar regulations here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32034/06]
Official statistics are not available in respect of the gender of persons who are directors of registered companies. I am aware that recently introduced legislation in Norway imposes gender balance requirements for State-owned companies and publicly quoted companies but that private limited companies are not covered by these requirements. I have no proposals at present to introduce a gender balance requirement into Irish company law. Responsibility for gender equality matters generally is the responsibility of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.
The Deputy will be aware that the Government is committed to achieving a minimum 40% representation of women on State boards. I understand from the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform that female membership on State boards increased from 32% in December 2004 to 34% in December 2005.
Does the Minister of State recognise that perhaps it is time we began obtaining the official statistics from the Companies Registration Office? It should not be too difficult to do so. Software is now available which can read the gender of a particular name of a director fairly easily. Notwithstanding that departmental responsibility for the matter rests with another Department, there is such a thing as overall collective responsibility. In the implementation of Government policy, where this is a desired objective, the Minister of State might consider undertaking an initiative with the Department of the Taoiseach, the Central Statistics Office and, in particular, the Companies Registration Office, which I understand is within the remit of his Department, to seek out these statistics.
The minimum 40% target for the representation of women on State boards and bodies has been reversed by the two Governments of which the Minister of State has been a supporter since 1997. The figures have gone backwards. The main culprit in disturbing the gender balance was not the current Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment but his predecessor.
The Government has committed in the programme for Government and Sustaining Progress to achieving a minimum of 40% representation of women on State boards. In July 2002, all Ministers were asked to review the gender balance composition of the State boards and committees under the aegis of their Departments and to take measures to redress gender balances. On 26 January 2005, the Government decided that all nominating bodies should be required to put forward male and female candidates for appointments to State boards for which they are the nominating authority. All Ministers were requested to put in place the necessary procedures to implement the Government decision.
Following these decisions, female membership on State boards increased from 22% in December 2004 to 34% at the end of September 2005, reflecting the upward curve in female participation in State boards since June 2002, when the figure was 29%. A total of 38% of appointments to State boards made during 2005 were women, compared with 33% in 2004 so one can say that the situation is moving towards the 40% target. I will raise with the Companies Registration Office the suggestion by Deputy Quinn that it check each annual return to see the percentage of male and female members on boards.