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CSR & Making a Difference Q3 2022

How projects can achieve gender balance for better performance

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Sheelagh Daly

Entrepreneurship Manager, Enterprise Ireland

There is a body of research that shows companies with gender diversity in decision-making and leadership positions perform better. They demonstrate more productivity, deliver better returns on assets and are more profitable.

Gender balance is a challenge not only in the private sector in Ireland but also internationally. It is particularly evident in traditionally male-dominated sectors such as engineering and ICT.

Support for equality

Enterprise Ireland launched ‘The Level Project’ in 2021, an initiative aiming to enhancegender balance in senior teams, helping to build strong leadership, attract talent and improve performance.

The project harnesses the talent and expertise of Ireland’s diverse population to help drive Ireland’s economic success. It is a long-term objective that will support the goal of more women starting, growing and leading Irish businesses.

Gender trends in Ireland

Within Irish companies, only 13% of CEOs and one in three senior managers are women. This highlights the need for change and reflects an opportunity to broaden the talent pool for knowledge-based industries with a high demand for skills.

To that end, The Level Project encompasses a suite of actions Enterprise Ireland is undertaking to influence and support change in Irish enterprise, including the Action Planning Toolkit.

If I was doing straightforward hiring, it would be about 80% male.

Changing industry mindsets

One of those taking action is Pat O’Connor, co-founder and Managing Director of Dublin-based VRAI. VRAI is a leader in the field of data-driven VR simulation training.

The sector tends to be male-dominated. Pat explains: “Our sector is technology. If I was doing straightforward hiring, it would be about 80% male. The question is, what do you do about it? We’re trying to change things for a number of reasons. There is the ethical reason, that it doesn’t seem fair or right. It seems that, systemically, women are not getting the same opportunities in what is a very exciting industry, but there is also a strategic reason. One of the ways to mitigate that complexity is having a diverse mindset in the senior team.”

Creating flexibility

Enterprise Ireland is also providing support to eligible companies to help them implement their plans. This includes the Part-Time Key Manager grant, specifically designed to encourage companies to provide more flexible arrangements for senior managers. There is also the new Strategic Consultancy Grant, where companies can bring in a consultant for up to nine days at an 80% grant rate.

The Level Project provides a free toolkit and can be accessed at It has a series of questions and suggested actions that companies can select to incorporate into their own strategy for achieving gender balance in senior teams.

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