Odgers berndtson
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Our 2022 female leaders’ placements set new standards.

2022 was another record-breaking year for us at Odgers Berndtson Ireland in our continual strive for gender balance in leadership placements in Irish businesses.

“It makes sense to have women, and more diversity in general, on the boards and senior leadership of companies in Ireland. This is not just because it is the right thing to do, but also because it makes economic and business sense.”      
- Leo Varadkar, November 2022

Unlimited: our way of saying we care.

In 2019, our global offices consolidated an already inclusive culture into a focused policy: Unlimited. It’s our philosophy, commitment and methodology to putting inclusion and diversity at the heart of everything we do. 

Our ‘Unlimited’ methodology helps clients to think more courageously about candidate shortlists and find new depth to the available talent pool.


Irish women leaders: take a seat, take a bow

Of our candidates appointed to Non-executive Director and Chair positions during 2022, 70% were female, up significantly from 53% in 2021. Exceptionally talented women have made tremendous progress in stepping up to board positions in Irish companies. The businesses they benefit, in turn, are openly embracing the pool of talent that’s changing the face of their top tier talent, and the fortunes of their organisations.  

23% of our candidates placed as CEOs or MDs were women, up from 14% in 2021. We are heartened by the continual rise in numbers here, though progress on gender balance is slower than among other roles.

Our responsibility to our clients is to support them to make diversity a reality in their organisations.


Our female placements keep climbing.

67% of our executives placed to Irish plcs during 2022 were female. This is another new high and an encouraging endorsement of the talent and capabilities women offer to large, successful companies.

Coincidentally, 67% of those we recruited to professional services were female and we also placed 67% women leaders to COO positions.

We welcome the launching in 2022 of the Women in Finance charter, which will track progress on gender balance in financial services. Of those we recruited to positions in this sector during 2022, 61% were female, again steadily increasing our percentages in recent years. 


Irish landscape

The average female representation on ISEQ20 boards has exceeded its target of 30% for 2022, and also the target of 33% for 2023, coming in at 36%. However there is still just one female chair in the ISEQ20.

Though not a like for like comparison, we’re more cheered every year to see the gender balance in our placements setting new standards in the goal towards equal representation of genders at the helm of the biggest organisations in our country.


How is gender balance progressing in larger markets?

With an unprecedented demand for talent it’s important to keep watch on global trends and better prepare for crucial people requirements.

Women leaders are switching jobs at the highest rates we’ve ever seen, and ambitious young women are prepared to do the same.”*

In October 2022, McKinsey, in partnership with LeanIn.org, published their eighth Women in the Workplace report, based on the largest study of women in corporate America. The raw material comes from 333 participating organisations employing over 12 million people and interviews with more than 40,000 employees. The findings are worth paying attention to.

Though there have been noteworthy gains towards equal representation over recent years , women are still dramatically underrepresented in leadership roles. The ‘broken rung’ concept (fewer women [87%] than men [100%] promoted from entry level to managerial) is seen as one of two pipeline problems, leaving fewer women at managerial level to promote to senior leadership. The other is that women are leaving at a much higher rate than male leaders. For every woman at director level promoted to the next level, two female directors are leaving.

The reasons the McKinsey report finds behind decisions to leave:

  1. Women are ambitious but face stronger headwinds than men. Microaggressions undermine authority, they are more likely to be questioned if qualified for the job, taken for a junior or judged on characteristics like gender or parenthood. Signals that it will be difficult to advance.
  2. Female leaders are less recognised and overworked. E.g., compared to male leaders, they do more to support employee well-being, improving retention, but this is not formally rewarded or acknowledged. 43% of women leaders experience burnout, just 31% of men.
  3. Women leaders want a different working culture – more flexibility, more company commitment to well-being and diversity, equality and inclusion.


These factors are becoming deal breakers for an upcoming generation of leaders. More than two thirds of women under 30 want to be senior leaders. Their emphasis on flexibility and a culture of well-being, equality and inclusivity is even greater.


Prepare now for your organisation’s future talent.

Companies cannot compete unless they listen to these loud messages and adopt their policies and practices to accommodate modern expectations. We’re here to help if you’d like to prepare your pipeline of leaders, male or female.   


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