Ireland ranks 17th in the 2018 Women in Leadership index conducted by the IESE Business School, with very strong progress in the social leadership dimension and a leading position in the business leadership sphere.
Ireland jumped six place since the 2006 index, which analyses and tracks progress regarding opportunities for women to grow professionally and personally in 34 OECD countries, securing its place in the top 20.
Due to Ireland’s significant progression in the social leadership dimension, the country has advanced 10 spots from 20th in this category in 2006 to 10th in 2018.
The authors highlight three reasons for this advancement: an increase in the length of maternity leave (from 34 weeks to 42 weeks); a 79% increase in the number of children aged 3 to 5 enrolled in school since 2006; and the fact the country has maintained one of the highest fertility rates (1.94).
Other countries that rank high for social leadership for women include Israel, the United Kingdom, France, Japan and Mexico. At the opposite extreme are Switzerland, Canada, Greece, Australia and the United States – the only country in the index with no paid maternity leave.
Ireland is also number three in the world in the business leadership dimension which looks at aspects such as women entrepreneurs, women managers, women in boards and unemployment.
Along with countries such as the United States and Canada, Ireland has a greater number of female executives, a higher than average percentage of women board members, lower levels of unemployment among women, and a working population balanced among gender lines.
The top five countries in terms of political leadership were Sweden, Iceland, Slovenia, Finland and Denmark with modest advancements noted in this category since 2006, mainly due to legislative changes and political parties’ self-imposed quotas.
Portugal was the country that scored highest for personal leadership for women with all of the top-ranking countries standing out for their high numbers of women in university programs and female entrepreneurs.
However, the report highlights that women remain markedly underrepresented in the fields of science, technology and construction, as well as in advanced degree programs.
The report also highlights a global stagnation in the number of female managers, which has hardly increased since 2006 and the persistent inequality with male counterparts in terms of leadership responsibilities.
Sweden, Iceland and Norway take the overall top three spots of the study, followed by Slovenia and
France, the two countries to make the greatest advancements since 2006.
Finland, Portugal, Spain, Belgium and the United Kingdom round out the top 10.
Breaking the Glass Ceiling – Tips on Advancing Female Leadership Roles
Juggling work and family responsibilities, delays in starting a family to advance professionally, and a lack of social and economic support for families are the main barriers to the development of female leadership, particularly in social and business areas, according to the report.
The authors insist these limitations can be overcome through rationalizing work timetables (to better accommodate modern lifestyles), allowing flexibility and adopting policies to provide families with social and economic support.
In the business sector, the penalization of mothers continues to be prevalent in many companies who view motherhood as an obstacle to performance and productivity. This mindset can be uprooted by fostering cooperate family responsibility and highlighting the impact of female leadership on business results.
In the meantime, continued support for women to access positions of responsibility in both business and politics is crucial, as this has a knock on effect in developing female leadership in other areas.