Just one-fifth of the board members in Northern Ireland’s top 100 companies are female, according to new figures.
New research by Brightwater Recruitment shows that of the 467 board members in these companies just over 90 are women.
Brightwater, which examined the issue ahead of International Women’s Day on Thursday, also found that just five of the top 100 companies in Northern Ireland have more women in their boardrooms than men.
The boardroom gender imbalance is improving, however. In 2015, 15% of boardrooms here were female, compared with the current figure of 20.1%.
Barbara McGrath, Brightwater’s managing director, said the issue of gender parity has been propelled back onto the agenda in the last year, largely due to high-profile gender pay-gap claims at some of the world’s biggest businesses.
“Ahead of International Women’s Day, we wanted to examine how Northern Ireland measures up in terms of gender and the role women play in the overall business landscape,” she said.
“The good news is, we’re heading in the right direction, but there’s still a long way to go. Competitiveness, productivity and growth are all potential areas of a business that will get a boost by correcting the long-standing gender imbalance at senior level.
“And the way to best set up your business for having strong female representation at senior level is to create a strong pipeline of women in middle-management roles coming through and create
a culture where women can thrive.”
Insight from Brightwater Recruitment shows, of all placements with salaries of £30,000 or above in 2017, 45% of these were women — an increase of 6% compared to the previous year.
Outside boardrooms, however, Northern Ireland is actually bucking the pay-gap trend in the United Kingdom.
According the Office of National Statistics (ONS), women in Northern Ireland earn 3.4% more than men on average — and they have been doing so since 2010.
The ONS says this is because the region has a higher number of public sector jobs in than the rest of the UK, an area traditionally dominated by women.
In its latest Global Gender Gap report, the World Economic Forum also found that Northern Ireland is the only region in the UK where, on average, women are paid more than men.
Looking at PwC’s latest Women in Work Index, which ranks the 33 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) based on five key indicators of female economic empowerment, the UK is in 15th place, compared to 17th in 2000.
The Nordic countries continue to lead the rankings — with Iceland, Sweden and Norway rated as the top three countries for opportunities for women in the workplace.
The UK’s position compares well with the other G7 countries (second only to Canada). However, this stands in stark contrast to Northern Ireland, which has led the way in closing its gender pay gap since 2000, reducing it from 22% to 6%, the lowest in the UK.
In contrast, London has made the slowest progress, only managing a 3% reduction in its pay gap from 22% in 2000 to 19% in 2017.