Gender balance and diversity on boards of financial institutions “will perhaps lead to better decision making and fewer unnecessary risks”, Ireland’s premier Leo Varadkar has said.
The Taoiseach made the comments after the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) urged the Irish government to look at its banks and financial institutions to ensure greater gender equality on its boards.
IMF director Christine Lagarde was in Dublin on Monday to open an event to mark 20 years since the adoption of the euro single currency.
Ms Lagarde also held a private meeting with Mr Varadkar before making statements at Government Buildings.
Mr Varadkar said: “Madame Lagarde told me about the important work she is doing to advance gender equality, including in placing it at the centre of the IMF’s work.
“In employment terms, the participation rate for Irish women has recovered in recent years, but still lags being many of our partners and peers. This needs to change.
“This month, the Government will approve the General Scheme of Gender Pay Gap Bill which will promote transparency on wage levels – initially for large employers, more than 250 employees, but extending over time to smaller employers.
“We will also establish a business-led group charged with increasing the representation of women on boards of the largest Irish publicly listed companies.
“For State Boards we’re already making good progress, 52% of those appointed in 2017 were female, bringing average female representation on State Boards to just under 40% by year-end.
“As Madame Lagarde pointed out to me we need to take a look at our financial institutions and our banks to make sure that we have greater gender equality on those boards as well and I would be very much of the same view.
“When it comes to our banks and financial institutions, having diversity and gender balance on those boards will perhaps lead to better decision making and fewer unnecessary risks being taken into the future.”
He also said that the IMF expects to publish its annual report on Ireland soon.
Mr Varadkar said that growing international tensions present a “real risk to economies”.
He added: “We agreed that in a trade war, there are no winners.”
On her third visit to Ireland, the former French finance minister and now managing director of the IMF praised Ireland’s growth in employment and economy.
She said: “We also discussed some of the challenges on the horizon for which Ireland has to prepare, has to make sure it has the resources, the rainy day funds, the good fiscal position in order to resist potential shocks, whether they come from trade, whether they come from financing costs and this is clearly something the Taoiseach is very much attentive to and I feel really reassured Ireland will take all the right measures going forward.”