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CSO statistical release, , 11am

Gender Balance in Business Survey

2021

Gender breakdown by senior roles in business, 2019 and 2021
 20192021
 MaleFemaleMaleFemale
 %%%%
Chairpersons92.67.486.014.0
Boards of Directors80.419.678.221.8
Chief Executive Officers (CEOs)88.511.586.613.4
Senior Executives71.728.370.329.7
Chief Financial Officers (CFOs)70.329.771.928.1
Source: CSO

One in eight CEOs in Ireland were women

Figure 1: Gender breakdown by senior roles in business, 2021
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The Gender Balance in Business Survey aims to provide statistics on gender representation in top management teams and boards of directors in Ireland. This second iteration of the survey asked large enterprises (250 or more employees) to provide information on the members of both their Senior Executive team and Board of Directors on 1st January 2021. Nearly 700 enterprises were surveyed online with 67% of those completing the survey. The survey reports that:

  • One in eight (13%) Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) in large enterprises in Ireland in 2021 were women.
  • Three in ten (30%) Senior Executives were female compared to seven in ten (70%) for male.
  • More than seven in ten (72%) Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) were male.
  • Men accounted for 86% of Board Chairpersons, down from 93% in 2019.
  • Almost 22% of members of Boards of Directors were female, an increase from 20% in 2019. See Headline table and Figure 1.

For a summary of this information, see Infographic.

X-axis labelMaleFemale
Less than
1 year
(2019)
65.834.2
Less than
1 year
(2021)
63.736.3
1-2 years
(2019)
69.930.1
1-2 years
(2021)
64.835.2
3-4 years
(2019)
69.630.4
3-4 years
(2021)
68.731.3
5 or more
years
(2019)
75.124.9
5 or more
years
(2021)
75.924.1

Senior Executives

In 2021, more than a third (36%) of persons appointed to Senior Executive positions who were in their role for less than one year were women while 24% of Senior Executives in their roles for five or more years were women. In 2021, three quarters (76%) of all Senior Executives in their roles for five or more years were men. See Figure 2 and Table 2.

Two-thirds of appointments to Senior Executive posts within the past two years were from within the enterprise and one third of such positions were filled externally. The gender breakdown shows that a higher share of external appointments (43%) went to female Senior Executives compared to 33% of internal appointments. See Figures 3 and 4.

#N/A
Internal
Male66.9
Female33.1
External
Male56.6
Female43.4
MaleFemale
Irish-owned
(2019)
73.826.2
Foreign-owned
(2019)
69.430.6
Irish-owned
(2021)
71.128.9
Foreign-owned
(2021)
69.830.2

Almost three in ten (29%) Senior Executives in Irish-owned enterprises in 2021 were female compared to 26% in 2019. Similarly, three in ten (30%) of Senior Executives in Foreign-owned enterprises in both 2019 and 2021 were female. See Figure 5.

MaleFemale
Industry (B to E)74.525.5
Construction (F)90.59.5
Wholesale and retail trade (G)69.630.4
Transportation and storage (H)77.222.8
Accommodation and food service activities (I)53.446.6
Information and communication (J)6337
Financial and Insurance (K)69.730.3
Real estate and Professional, scientific and technical activities (L + M)67.432.6
Administrative and support service activities (N)64.235.8
Other service activities (R + S)57.142.9
Services G - S (excl O, P and Q)6733

Accommodation & Food Service Activities, with 47%, had the highest proportion of female Senior Executives in 2021. This was followed by Other Service Activities (43%), Information & Communication (37%) and Administrative & Support Service Activities (36%). Construction had the lowest level of female representation in Senior Executive roles at 10%. This is followed by Transportation & Storage (23%) and Industry (26%). See Figure 6 and Table 3.

X-axis labelMaleFemale
Less than
1 year
(2019)
69.930.1
Less than
1 year
(2021)
69.230.8
1-2 years
(2019)
79.620.4
1-2 years
(2021)
67.132.9
3-4 years
(2019)
77.922.1
3-4 years
(2021)
80.519.5
5 or more
years
(2019)
83.416.6
5 or more
years
(2021)
83.516.5

Boards of Directors 

The composition of Boards of Directors of large enterprises in Ireland in 2021 was 78% male and 22% female. This compares to 80% male and 20% female in 2019. Figure 7 shows the gender breakdown of company directors by their length of time on the Board. Of the Directors who have served on the board for 1-2 years, 33% were female. This has increased from 20% reported in the previous publication in 2019. Of the Directors appointed 5 or more years ago, 17% were female and 84% male. See Figure 7 and Tables 1 & 4.

Three in ten (30%) of all female board members have been on the board for 1-2 years while 13% were on the board for less than a year. Less than one-tenth (8%) of male Directors were appointed in the past year. Directors with five or more years board membership accounted for 58% of all male directors and 42% of all female directors. See Tables 1 & 5.

MaleFemale
Irish-owned
(2019)
81.218.8
Foreign-owned
(2019)
78.721.3
Irish-owned
(2021)
77.5122.49
Foreign-owned
(2021)
78.9821.02

In 2021, Foreign-owned enterprises had a slightly higher percentage of male directors than Irish-owned enterprises; 79% of directors were male in Foreign-owned and 78% were male in Irish-owned. See Figure 8.

MaleFemale
Industry (B to E)84.315.7
Construction (F)94.45.6
Wholesale and retail trade (G)79.920.1
Transportation and storage (H)7426
Accommodation and food service activities (I)7228
Information and communication (J)71.728.3
Financial and Insurance (K)75.124.9
Real estate and Professional, scientific and technical activities (L + M)78.521.5
Administrative and support service activities (N)67.332.7
Other service activities (R + S)76.323.7
Services G - S (excl O, P and Q)75.224.8

In 2021, 22% of the members on Boards of Directors in large enterprises in Ireland were female, a slight increase from 20% in 2019. Administrative & Support Service activities had the highest percentage of female board members at 33%, followed by Information & Communication and Accommodation & Food Service activities, at 28% each. Construction had the most male representation with 94% of their board members being male. This is followed by Industry (84%) and Wholesale & Retail Trade (80%). See Figure 9 and Table1 & 6.

X-axis labelMaleFemale
Less than
1 year
(2019)
8119
Less than
1 year
(2021)
79.220.8
1-2 years
(2019)
95.74.3
1-2 years
(2021)
73.326.7
3-4 years
(2019)
97.12.9
3-4 years
(2021)
86.713.3
5 or more
years
(2019)
92.77.3
5 or more
years
(2021)
8911

Chairpersons

Female representation of Board Chairpersons in large enterprises in Ireland increased to 14% in 2021 from 7% in 2019. For appointed Chairpersons who were on the board for less than one year, 21% were female and 79% were male. More than a quarter (27%) of Chairpersons who were on the board for 1-2 years were female. For appointed Chairpersons who were on the board for more than five years, the percentage of male appointees was 89%. See Figure 10 and Table 1.

MaleFemale
Irish-owned
(2019)
94.75.3
Foreign-owned
(2019)
89.410.6
Irish-owned
(2021)
86.7113.29
Foreign-owned
(2021)
85.4614.54

In 2021, the gender breakdown of Chairpersons for foreign-owned and Irish-owned enterprises were broadly similar. Foreign-owned enterprises had 15% female Chairspersons to 86% male while Irish-owned enterprises had 13% female Chairpersons to 87% male. See Figure 11.

At least 40% female Senior ExecutivesAt least 40% female Board of Directors
Industry and Construction (B to F)14.57.1
Wholesale and retail trade (G)30.513.1
Services (H - S excl O, P and Q)36.125.5
All sectors28.618.4
Senior ExecutivesBoard of Directors
Industry & Construction (B to F)14.57.1
Wholesale and retail trade (G)30.513.1
Services (H - S excl O, P and Q)36.125.5
All sectors28.618.4

Enterprises with at least 40% female representation

In 2021, 29% of enterprises had 40% or more female representation at Senior Executive level. The Services sector had the highest proportion of enterprises with this level of female representation with 36% while 31% of Wholesale and retail trade firms had 40% or more female representation. Almost 15% of Industry & Construction enterprises had 40% or more female representation in executive management.

Almost one in five (18%) enterprises had at least 40% female representation on their Board of Directors. A quarter of Service enterprises had met this target compared with just 7% of enterprises in Industry. & Construction See Figure 12 and Table 7.

Table 1 Gender breakdown by senior roles in business, 2019 and 2021
 20192021
 MaleFemaleMaleFemale
 %%%%
Chairpersons92.67.486.014.0
Boards of Directors80.419.678.221.8
Chief Executive Officers (CEOs)88.511.586.613.4
Senior Executives71.728.370.329.7
Chief Financial Officers (CFOs)70.329.771.928.1
Source: CSO
Table 2 Gender breakdown of Senior Executives by time in position, 2019 and 2021
 20192021
 MaleFemaleMaleFemale
 %%%%
Less than 1 year65.834.263.736.3
1-2 years69.930.164.835.2
3-4 years69.630.468.731.3
5 or more years75.124.975.924.1
Source: CSO
Table 3 Gender breakdown of Senior Executives by sector, 2019 and 2021
 20192021
 MaleFemaleMaleFemale
 %%%%
Industry (B to E)73.826.274.525.5
Construction (F)91.18.990.59.5
Wholesale and retail trade (G)68.531.569.630.4
Transportation and storage (H)75.324.777.222.8
Accommodation and food service activities (I)53.946.153.446.6
Information and communication (J)75.824.263.037.0
Financial and Insurance (K)74.125.969.730.3
Real estate and Professional, scientific and technical activities (L + M)70.030.067.432.6
Administrative and support service activities (N)63.336.764.235.8
Other service activities (R + S)70.629.457.142.9
Services G - S (excl O, P and Q)68.631.467.033.0
Source: CSO
Table 4 Gender breakdown of Directors by time on the board, 2019 and 2021
 20192021
 MaleFemaleMaleFemale
 %%%%
Less than 1 year69.930.169.230.8
1-2 years79.620.467.132.9
3-4 years77.922.180.519.5
5 or more years83.416.683.516.5
Source: CSO
Table 5 Board members by gender and number of years on the board, 2019 and 2021
 20192021
 MaleFemaleMaleFemale
 %%%%
Less than 1 year9.717.08.113.1
1-2 years17.418.116.529.5
3-4 years17.319.917.915.8
5 or more years55.645.057.541.6
Total100.0100.0100.0100.0
Source: CSO
Table 6 Gender breakdown of Directors by sector, 2019 and 2021
 20192021
 MaleFemaleMaleFemale
 %%%%
Industry (B to E)83.017.084.315.7
Construction (F)91.58.594.45.6
Wholesale and retail trade (G)82.217.879.920.1
Transportation and storage (H)80.219.874.026.0
Accommodation and food service activities (I)79.220.872.028.0
Information and communication (J)76.024.071.728.3
Financial and Insurance (K)81.518.575.124.9
Real estate and Professional, scientific and technical activities (L + M)75.924.178.521.5
Administrative and support service activities (N)76.123.967.332.7
Other service activities (R + S)74.425.676.323.7
Services G - S (excl O, P and Q)78.421.675.224.8
Source: CSO
Table 7: Enterprises with at least 40% female representation by leadership position and sector, 2021
 Senior ExecutivesBoard of Directors
 %%
Industry and Construction (B to F)14.57.1
Wholesale and retail trade (G)30.513.1
Services H - S (excl O, P and Q)36.125.5
All sectors28.618.4
Source: CSO

Background Notes

Background Notes

Introduction 

The Gender Balance in Business Survey provides official statistics from the CSO on gender representation in Senior Executive teams and Boards of Directors of large enterprises in Ireland. The survey was conducted in response to the Balance for Better Business initiative and it aims to provide benchmark information on gender representation. The 2021 survey is the second iteration of the survey which repeats every two years.

The survey was collected by the CSO between May and June 2021. The online questionnaire asked for the gender breakdown of the Senior Executive team and Boards of Directors.  

Sample

The scope of the survey is large enterprises (i.e. those with over 250 employees). A total of nearly 700 enterprises were surveyed and the response rate to the survey was 67%. The survey returns analysed in this report comprise about 5,600 persons in Senior Executive positions or on Boards of Directors in the respondent enterprises.  

The results from the sample are unweighted and are mainly presented as percentage breakdowns between male and female.

Statistical Confidentiality

The survey was collected from enterprises under the Statistics (Gender Balance in Business Survey) Order 2021 (S.I. No. 93/2021) made under the Statistics Act 1993.

The information collected in the survey is confidential under the Statistics Act and will only be used by the Central Statistics Office for the compilation of aggregate statistics. The CSO has checked the statistical outputs of the survey to ensure that tables do not disclose details of any individual or company. In general, this means that the results do not include multi-variate cross-classifications. The raw data will not be shared with any other organisations.

The CSO wishes to thank all the companies that took part in the Gender Balance in Business Survey 2021.

Questionnaire

The survey was collected via an online questionnaire. For the Senior Executive Team, the survey asked for name, job title, gender, length of time in years in the position and the length of time in years working in the company. For the Boards of Directors, the survey asked the name of the board members, whether executive or non-executive, gender and length of time in years on the board. The questions distinguished the post of Chair of Board.

For the purposes of the survey, Senior Executives were defined as those individuals at the highest level of management of an organisation who have the day-to-day tasks of managing that organisation and who hold executive powers delegated to them with and by authority of a Board of Directors and/or the shareholders. A Board of Directors was defined as a recognised group of people who jointly oversee the activities of an organisation or company and which is the highest authority in the management of the company and sets out the overall strategic direction to be taken.

Coverage

The survey covered all large enterprises, i.e. those with over 250 employees. The sectors included in the survey were NACE sections B to S excluding NACE sections O, P and Q (see below for explanation of NACE classification).

Classification by Sector

The results include a breakdown into the following NACE Rev 2 sections (NACE is the EU classification of Economic Activity):

Section B:       Mining and quarrying

Section C:       Manufacturing

Section D:       Electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply

Section E:       Water supply; sewerage, waste management and remediation activities

Section F:       Construction

Section G:      Wholesale and retail trade; Repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles

Section H:       Transportation and storage

Section I:        Accommodation and food service activities

Section J:       Information and communication

Section K:       Financial and insurance activities

Section L:       Real estate activities   

Section M:      Professional, scientific and technical activities

Section N:       Administrative and support service activities

Section R:       Arts, entertainment and recreation

Section S:       Other service activities

NACE sections O (Public administration and Defence), P (Education) and Q (Human Health and social work activities) were not included in the survey.

Further information on the NACE Rev 2 classification is available at: http://www.cso.ie/en/surveysandmethodology/classifications/

Nationality of Ownership

The results include breakdowns between Irish-owned and Foreign-owned businesses. The classification by nationality of ownership is determined by the nationality of the owners of 50 per cent or more of the share capital. 

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