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No Irish stock market listed company has a female CEO for the first time since CPL floated in 1999

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Call to lift target for woman on boards after Ires Reit’s Margaret Sweeney leaves top job

Margaret Sweeney stepped down from her role as chief executive of Irish Residential Properties (Ires) Reit yesterday, with Eddie Byrne moving into the top job from today.

She was the only female chief executive of a company listed on Dublin’s Euronext exchange in 2024. Siobhán Talbot, former group managing director of Glanbia, retired from the business at the end of last year and was replaced by Hugh McGuire.

Francesca McDonagh stepped down from her role as chief executive of Bank of Ireland in September 2022 to join Credit Suisse. She recently left the Swiss bank to take on the position of chief executive of Frankfurt-based Universal Investment group.

Bank of Ireland is now led by Myles O’Grady. Fiona Muldoon left her job as chief executive of FBD Insurance in 2020.

Ann Heraty, the first and longest serving female CEO of an Irish stock market listed company, CPL Resources, stood down in 2022 after the sale of the firm. Heraty was the first woman to be CEO of an Irish listed business when she led the flotation of CPL in 1999. Until this week there has always been at least woman in a top job since then.

An analysis conducted by executive search giant Spencer Stuart, which was published at the end of last year, revealed that just 13pc of all Iseq 20 executive board positions were held by women in April 2023.

However, this figure from the 2023 report included both Ms Talbot and Ms Sweeney who are no longer in their positions. Three chief financial officers and one chair position were also held by women in the time under review.

Balance for Better Business, an independent group established by the Government, has today announced new strategy to boost the numbers of women at board and leadership level in companies across the country.

It has set a new target for organisations to exceed 40pc female representation on boards and leadership teams this year. This target is a minimum for companies to aim for, the group said.

It added that a 40pc target aligns with international norms on gender balance.

Balance for Better Business, which was founded in 2018, has also created a new roadmap for companies to follow in order to improve the gender balance of their organisation. This includes making a plan and measuring developments, as well as succession planning.

It also calls on Irish businesses to focus on talent development and retention within their teams, while recruitment strategies should include gender-balanced candidate lists for both open roles and promotions.

The review group also suggested developing non-traditional career pathways for those interested in pursuing leadership roles.

Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Peter Burke TD said that the number of women on boards of Iseq20 listed companies has reached 40pc this year, up from 37pc a year ago.

“There is still much work to do, in particular to accelerate the pace of change in non-listed companies and within particular industries,” he said.

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