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‘Concerning’ findings on women in senior roles
MH&C partner Vanessa Byrne

18 Nov 2022 / employment Print

‘Concerning’ findings on women in senior roles

Research carried out by law firm Mason Hayes & Curran (MHC) indicates that the number of women in senior leadership positions in Ireland has declined in recent years.

The survey was carried out during the summer of this year among more than 100 in-house counsel working in Ireland.

According to the In-House Counsel & Gender Parity Survey, only 28% of the lawyers said that the percentage of women working at senior level in their organisation was between 30% and 50%.

This represented a significant drop from the 43% recorded last year.

Fewer female CEOs

The percentage of lawyers reporting a percentage of women in senior roles of less than 30% rose from 47% last year to 58% this year.

Reported female chief executives also declined from 23% in 2021 to 18% this year. According to MHC, this figure had peaked in 2020, with 26% of organisations having a female CEO.

For those who reported that their organisation had a majority of female staff, only 37% reported that their chief executive or equivalent was also female.


MHC partner Vanessa Byrne (pictured) described the trend in the survey as “concerning”.

“Not only has there been a stagnation in achieving gender parity at senior leadership level, but it appears that the gender-leadership gap may actually be getting wider,” she said.

“It is notable that many of the figures being reported have returned to our 2019 pre-COVID research levels,” Byrne added.

MHC reported that the picture appeared to have improved “very slightly” for non-executive boards, where those having over 50% female representation increased from 3% to 6%, and those having no females declined from 11% to 8%.

Gender pay gap

Asked about the causes of gender pay gaps, the lack of women in senior levels was seen as the main factor for 61% of respondents. Caring responsibilities was second at 17%, and unpaid leave by women came in third at 15%.

MHC partner Elizabeth Ryan said that the Government’s publication of regulations for reporting on the gender pay gap earlier this year was a significant development. This followed the commencement of the Gender Pay Gap Information Act on 31 May 2022.

Organisations with more than 250 employees will be reporting on their gender pay gaps for the first time this December.

“These reports should be a useful tool to shine a light on where gender pay gaps exist, the reasons underpinning such gaps, and to encourage organisations to formulate a plan around narrowing the gap,” said Ryan.

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