Research conducted by Behaviour & Attitudes on behalf of the Institute of Directors in Ireland (IoD) found that two-thirds, 66%, of Irish directors are not in favour of a formal quota system to increase the number of women on boards.
Six in 10 female directors are in favour of a formal gender quota system, with one in three (36%) favouring it as a temporary requirement and 24% women favouring it as a permanent requirement. Almost three in four (72%) men are against gender quotas.
The recent Grant Thornton Corporate Governance Review, which examined board composition, found that just 8% of senior positions in Irish listed firms are held by women and 43% of companies have no female representation at all.
Despite the gender imbalance, when asked whether the board on which they sit is diverse in terms of skills, eight in 10 (84%) directors said there is an appropriate mix of skills among board members. Surprisingly this figure rises in the financial services sector with nine in 10 (91%) directors in that industry confident that their board is diverse with regard to skills.
Half (50%) of directors surveyed believe that their board is sufficiently diverse in terms of gender.
Chief executive of the Institute of Directors in Ireland Maura Quinn said the organisation believes that the gender issue should only form part of a wider discussion on board diversity.
“I am glad to see that the majority of directors recognise that the introduction of a formal quota system is not necessarily the right way to achieve that diversity.
Yes, we need more female directors, but we should be looking at gender in the broader context of board diversity which encompasses the skills mix, age profile and nationality of board members.
MS Quinn said the nominations committee has a key role to play in developing a skills matrix which should be used by the board to ensure that any directors appointed bring sufficient balance and diversity.