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Under representation of women in senior management remains a key issue for business

Addressing gender diversity in the boardroom

Organisations are encouraged to participate in a process of change and increase gender diversity in the boardroom.


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  • Number of women in global corporates is increasing at all levels except executive committee level
  • Despite increasing numbers, external recruitment is used over leadership development or internal promotion
  • International research serves to highlight similar gender barriers in Ireland, says KPMG

New research shows that despite progress in gender diversity at Board level and below, the number of women at executive committee level has not increased in global companies.

The lack of progress is highlighted in a collaborative research project between KPMG, Why Women Work, YSC and the 30% Club which shows there has been no increase in female participation in executive committees for over two years in FTSE 100 companies.

Responding to the findings, Darina Barrett, Partner at KPMG in Ireland, said: ‘While progress is being made in Irish businesses, we have long known that women are underrepresented at Board level. A bottleneck remains for women at executive committee level and various barriers must be overcome if women are to advance in Irish business. Measures such as monitoring and openly reporting the progress of women in organisations may help to encourage a process of change.’

Despite improvements at every other level of the executive pipeline in the wider FTSE 250, the number of senior female executives at executive committee level in the UK has remained static at 17%. The number of women holding roles in the ranks immediately below the executive committee increased by 2%, to 25%, in 2016. The research also analysed 850 roles in executive committees in the FTSE 100 and looked at diversity data from 15 large corporates.

Recommendations for Irish business:

  • Collaborate on gender benchmarking and agree transparent corporate reporting requirements on gender diversity within the executive pipeline to enable meaningful comparisons over time, across organisations and between industry sectors;
  • Show authenticity around the top table that this is a strategically critical priority;
  • Confirm board level accountability for corporate commitments to diversity and inclusion;
  • Focus on people management. Provide managers with comparative gender-differentiated feedback on their own management styles with their teams;
  • Consider workforce agility both from a business perspective and for all employees, not just working mothers, to work flexibly without limiting their career options;
  • Include communication of progress on diversity in regular business performance reporting to help effective monitoring and accountability, and make diversity data easily accessible to employees.


Notes to Editors

For press enquiries please contact:
Paul Gray, Communications Manager
KPMG in Ireland
(01) 700 4728 /

About KPMG in Ireland

KPMG in Ireland employs 2,400 people across its audit, tax and advisory services from offices in Dublin, Belfast, Cork and Galway. KPMG is a global network of professional firms providing Audit, Tax, and Advisory services.

About KPMG International

KPMG is a global network of professional services firms providing Audit, Tax and Advisory services. We operate in 155 countries and have 174,000 people working in member firms around the world. The independent member firms of the KPMG network are affiliated with KPMG International Cooperative ("KPMG International"), a Swiss entity. Each KPMG firm is a legally distinct and separate entity and describes itself as such.

About YSC

The world’s premier independent leadership consultancy. YSC partner with clients across their leadership and talent agendas, helping organisations to achieve sustainable success by releasing the power of their people. They make broad impact through deep insight, underpinned by rigorous independence and led by qualified, characterful and authentic consultants. YSC are global in reach, supporting iconic multinational, regional and local companies, as well as government bodies and not-for-profit organisations. Key client offerings include cutting-edge services and thought leadership in the arenas of Board and CEO development and succession planning; executive assessment; executive coaching; leadership development; leadership frameworks and culture change; diversity and inclusion; executive team development; and emerging talent and identifying potential.

About Why Women Work

Why Women Work is an innovative social enterprise, founded in 2015, to boost the number of women in corporate leadership roles. Our aim is to create an ecosystem that gets the best collective leadership out of male and female talent and enables experiential diversity to feed into a vibrant, innovative organisation that outperforms. Partnering can range from advisory services on diversity initiatives, to demonstrating a live, localised business case for diversity, through to executive collective coaching (‘E-Co-Coaching’) on changing the diversity climate. The underlying ethos is always the same; to understand what is working for men and women in a specific context and to use this insight to accelerate change. We draw on cognitive and social psychology along with emerging neuropsychology and behavioural economics to tailor the solution according to the evidence. Run on a commercial basis, all profits are channelled into supporting pro bono research and community activism on gender diversity.

© 2020 KPMG, an Irish partnership and a member firm of the KPMG network of independent member firms affiliated with KPMG International Cooperative (“KPMG International”), a Swiss entity. All rights reserved.

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