Report Synopsis

Female Representation in Leadership Positions in Irish Agriculture and Specifically on Dairy Co-operative Boards

Maire McCarthy

This report explores female representation in leadership positions in agriculture in Ireland with particular emphasis on women participation on dairy co-operative boards. Research shows that companies with gender balanced senior management teams have a higher return on investment (Strauss, 2016). This report confirms a lack of gender diversity on boards of dairy co-operatives in Ireland. In 2015 of the 405 dairy co-operative directors in Ireland, there were eight female directors, two of whom are on the board of Bandon Co-op. In 2018 there are 395 dairy co-operative directors seven of whom are female (Flanagan, 2018).

Broadening the composition of the board of a co-operative helps expand perspective at the top and ultimately leads to more successful outcomes for shareholders.

Key Findings

  • In key Irish agricultural organisation there has been strong female representation in executive positions in recent years. Despite this, there is a lack of female representation on Irish Dairy Co-operative boards (less than 3% in 2018). The figure neither reflects the number of women involved in the wider agricultural sector in any capacity nor even the smaller number of female farmers;
  • Female representation on dairy co-operative boards in the UK, Netherlands and New Zealand is higher than in Ireland, but remains low. These countries have started to successfully implement policies that encourage female representation on their dairy co-operative boards;
  • Among potential female dairy co-operative board members there is a clear lack of understanding around board membership. They do not understand the requirements, the board activities or the benefits of membership which inhibits their involvement. These author’s interviews have shown that potential candidates require education on these points, as well as receiving mentoring, and increasing the number of female role models and trailblazers;
  • There were mixed views on the value of quotas with many in favour as they force women to be promoted and appointed to board and executive positions while some thought that it would lead to the promotion of people who are not best suited for a given role.

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