Belfast Telegraph

Women still lagging behind in battle of the boardrooms

By Margaret Canning and John Mulgrew

Women are still under-represented on boards in Northern Ireland, although three major companies are surpassing targets, research by the Belfast Telegraph shows.

Only three among 20 of the province's best-known home-grown companies surpass the target of having 25% of board places occupied by women.

SHS Group, UTV Media plc and Danske Bank have all overreached Lord Davies' recent target.

Four out of eight boardroom appointments at spices to Shloer company SHS Group are female - Elizabeth Sloan, chief executive Elaine Birchall, Brenda Salter and Karen Salter.

Three of the nine board members at Belfast-based media firm UTV are female and all are non-executive directors - Helen Kirkpatrick, , Australian Coline McConville and Roisin Brennan.

Danske Bank has two female board members out of seven - Space NK founder Nicky Kinnaird, originally from Belfast, and Lesley Jones. Ms Kirkpatrick, a chartered accountant who also sits on the board of United Dairy Farmers - where she is the only female appointee - received her first board appointment, to the International Fund for Ireland, after 15 years of working life.

She pinpointed 1981 - the year she started her accountancy studies - as a year of change. "That was the first year when there were six men and six women on the intake - before then you might have had two women and 10 men." Ms Kirkpatrick said gender diversity remained an important issue, but added: "Racial diversity and age diversity are also important. I'd like to see more young men and women on company boards."

The number of women at chief executive level in Northern Ireland is growing gradually, thanks to the recent appointment of Elaine Birchall as CEO of SHS - who joins Janet McCollum, head of Moy Park and winner of the recent Belfast Telegraph Businesswoman of the Year award, in a roll-call of the most prominent female business leaders here.

The Moy Park board also includes Ursula Lavery, the company's technical director.

Other female business leaders include Darina Armstrong, the chief executive of the Progressive Building Society, Ellvena Graham of Ulster Bank, Sara Venning of Northern Ireland Water, Claire Collum of 8over8, and Rotha Johnston, a board member at NIE and the chairwoman of Northern Ireland Screen.

Darina Armstrong said: "In my view diversity across gender, race, culture and background within senior management significantly strengthens and enriches organisations."

Belfast Telegraph

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