In 2011 the Irish Government introduced new arrangements to increase openness and transparency in the selection of appointees to State Boards and in 2014 published guidelines setting out requirements which would apply to all State Board appointments. These guidelines incorporate the long standing target to achieve 40% representation of women and of men on State Boards. With a view to accelerating progress in achieving this target, the Government agreed in 2018 to the convening of an inter-departmental group to identify and report on best practices which could be adopted across Government. The interdepartmental group published their report in March 2019. The Ministers would then bring the report to Government with recommendations on actions to be taken by Government departments and agencies and an accompanying implementation plan.
The purpose of the Inter-Departmental group were set out in its terms of reference, as follows:
* identify best practices (whether already in use in Departments or not) aimed at accelerating progress towards the target of 40% representation of each gender on all State boards, considering measures mentioned in Action 4.7 of the National Strategy for Women and Girls such as engagement with external nominating bodies and awareness raising among eligible groups of women;
* consider how such practices could be mainstreamed across Government Departments and public bodies;
* recommend actions in respect of those practices that could be taken by Government Departments and public bodies; and
* propose an implementation plan to give effect to its recommendations.
Four key themes emerged from discussions of the group, and these provided a focus for the Inter-Departmental Group's subsequent work:
* Measures were needed to encourage women to apply for Board positions in greater numbers.
* The Inter-Departmental Group would consider ways to encourage consideration of gender representation in appointing board members and chairpersons.
* Low representation of women among candidates put forward by nominating bodies and among ex-officio appointments needed to be addressed.
* The Inter-Departmental Group would also consider ways to encourage further engagement by Departments with nominating bodies with a view to increase the diversity and skills mix more broadly on State Boards, which indirectly could contribute to greater gender balance.
The Public Appointments Service (PAS) which operates under the Guidelines on Appointments to State Boards has played a positive role, with the PAS process achieving 51% of appointments to female candidates in 2018 and 53% since the establishment of the process in 2014.
The PAS State Boards process is constantly evolving, developing stronger recognition of the State Boards brand in key sectors with a focus on gender and regional representation across candidate pools. As a direct result of this engagement process, we have seen an increase in the number of women applying for vacancies on State Boards.
The Inter-Departmental Group on Gender Balance on State Boards have published their Report which includes the following conclusions;
* Targeted actions by Government Departments, external nominating bodies, the Public Appointments Service and by chairs and members of State Boards should enable all State boards to achieve the 40% target for gender balanced Board membership.
* the achievement of better gender balance on State Boards will require Government Departments and Public Agencies to give greater visibility to this requirement both so that external nominating bodies are aware of it when nominating potential candidates and so that eligible women have greater awareness of potential vacancies.
Following consideration by Government of its recommendations, the Department of Justice will prepare an implementation plan, in consultation with the State Board Liaison Officers of each Department, of actions to be implemented by all relevant public bodies.
The Inter-Departmental Group concluded that implementation of the following recommendations would address the factors which are leading to gender imbalances in the membership of certain State Boards and provided suggested approaches under each of the headings;
* Terms and Conditions
* Highlight Gender Balance when making appointments
* Governance and Culture
* Nominations by external nominating bodies
* Emphasis diversity and skills mix on Boards
* Training Interventions