Taoiseach Simon Harris joins 30% Club Ireland

Irish Taoiseach Simon Harris meeting the 30% Club Ireland team

The new Irish Taoiseach Simon Harris joined the 30% Club Ireland’s 10th Chair and CEO conference in Dublin today. 

Demonstrating his commitment to gender equality in business leadership, Simon showed up as a male ally to our cause. 

He joined a large gathering of CEOs and chairs from 30% Club Ireland’s member companies, who represent over 650,000 employees across Ireland. These include both the private, publicly listed, and public service sectors.

The 30% Club is a global campaign supported by Board Chairs and CEOs of medium and large organisations, committed to achieving better gender balance at leadership levels and throughout their organisations, for better business outcomes.

Since it was established in Ireland ten years ago , the gender balance on Irish listed boards (ISEQ20) has more than trebled – from 12.5% then, to 40% today.

Gender Power Gap

One of this year’s themes looks at how companies can address the gender power gap that still exists within many Irish businesses and organisation. This is defined as the proportional power held by women in leadership and management positions, relative to men, which is often defined by historical stereotypes, with human resources as an example. The measurement differs from gender diversity, which only measures the presence of women at the top table, and the gender pay gap, which measures the average difference in remuneration.

As an example, only 25.7% of CFO roles are currently held by women, and this has decreased from 29.7% in 2019, CSO data shows. With CFO roles as important talent pipeline for Chair and CEO roles, addressing this imbalance becomes critical in modern succession planning. Achieving gender power balance is one of the topics that will be discussed by two panels, which will mark the successful progress across Irish business in the 10 years to date and consider where to next.

Panellists include: Myles O’Grady, Bank of Ireland chief executive; Eamonn Sinnott, Interim Head, Intel, Magdeburg, Germany; Carol Andrews, Co-chair Balance for Better Business; Lorna Conn, Cpl chief executive; Hanneke Smits Global Chair 30% Club and Global Head of Investment Management, BNY Mellon, Paddy Hayes, ESB chief executive and Michael Jackson, Managing Partner, Matheson.


Taoiseach Simon Harris told the audience of almost 300 that all women and men in Ireland should have equal access to opportunity, and that Ireland can be exemplary leaders in achieving full gender balance on boards and senior leadership teams, where our publicly listed companies have already exceeded the 33% quota set by the EU Women on Boards directive.

“I’m delighted to join leaders from across the private and public sector to support the important work of the 30% Club. Ireland has a huge pool of talent, and experience, so there is no reason why we cannot ensure boards and senior teams are gender balanced,” he said.

“The Ireland we live in must be reflected across business and wider society, because decisions that can embrace a wide spectrum of viewpoints will be the most informed ones. We have made significant progress to date but there is still a long way to go. I urge all business leaders to embrace gender balance, along with diversity and inclusion. It makes business stronger


Meliosa O’Caoimh, Outgoing Chair of 30% Club Ireland and Northern Trust Ireland Country Head, said what was important from her perspective is continuing the focus on all women.

“Gender is a majority not a minority issue, and a clear focus is still needed. This includes encouraging next generation talent and putting a particular focus on incorporating a regional view in our work. What has been achieved over the last decade in Ireland is fantastic, but we know there is still more to be done to maintain, and advance momentum, for better business outcomes.”

International trends and the likely challenges and hurdles of the next 10 years were also debated, along with examining where the future CEOs and Board chairs will come from, and how the power gap can be collectively closed. The panels also commented on the need to embed progress in every organisation, and not just rely on averages as a strong indicator. This is important in Ireland where CSO data shows that while we make progress on an average basis, 21% of C-suite teams still operate on an all-male basis.


Mary McAleese, former President of Ireland, joined 30% Club Ireland's CEO event
Mary McAleese, former President of Ireland with new Irish Taoiseach Simon Harris

Paula Neary, incoming 30% Club Ireland Chair and a Senior Managing Director at Accenture, said her focus in the new role will be on how we “can use this moment as we redefine new flexible workplaces and new workforces augmented by AI, on changing the system, rather than the people”, and an 
‘all gender’ agenda – versus a female agenda – that emphasises new ways of working that support men and women equally, to flourish and progress in modern careers.


“I am honoured and delighted to take over as chair of such an important initiative, which I have supported – and been part of – since its inception.

“If we are going to successfully drive and initiate more progress in this area, we need to look through a wider diverse lens, across society. That means thinking about how we engage everyone – especially younger men in the conversation on changing culture, behaviours and attitudes. Such a focus leads to better workplace outcomes for all talent – in terms of attraction and retention – and is critical to the economic success across Ireland.”