25 September 2014


Gender diversity top priority for business leaders

Speaking at the business organisation’s Annual Lunch today (Thursday) at Titanic Belfast, CBI Northern Ireland chair Colin Walsh said it was a business imperative that even greater strides are taken towards embedding gender diversity in the workplace.

Gender diversity top priority for business leaders

While welcoming the significant progress that the business community has made on the subject over the last two decades, Mr Walsh said that there are many good reasons for companies to believe that increasing gender diversity in their workforces will be a business boost, as well as being the right thing to do.

The CBI Lunch also sees the official Northern Ireland launch of a clear commitment statement from the CBI that we will take the necessary steps to ensure that in all of our work - through our council, committees, events and policy making activities – there will be a female participation rate of at least 30% on a comply or explain basis. Today’s lunch had more than 40% female audience.

In his remarks, Mr Walsh said:

“The CBI approaches the subject of gender diversity in the workplace with a clear belief in the needs to sustain and develop the talent pipeline for women.

"Personally, I look forward to the day when from education, to entry into work, through management positions and beyond that we have addressed the remaining issues to make the topic of gender diversity an accepted part of the business culture and that we do not have to talk about it anymore.

"Business needs to once again take ownership of the continuing momentum and progress of the last two decades – something seen very clearly in the number of females in attendance at the Lunch today – and ensure that diversity is and remains a key business issue.”

Turning to the ongoing political challenges in Northern Ireland, the CBI Chair said:

“In the last twelve months the private sector has created over 16,000 jobs – an encouraging start to our rebalancing of the economy with jobs being created in manufacturing and construction, as well as the services sector.

"The private sector is getting on with it – creating jobs and wealth, investing in their people and innovation, creating new products and services. But we recognise the journey has only begun and much work remains to be done if we are to achieve another of CBI’s objectives: ensuring that growth makes a difference to everyone.”

"This positivity must though be reflected and built on and, for this, it is critical that more cohesive and collegiate approach is taken by the Northern Ireland Executive. There is again a threat of reputational risk as well as ongoing uncertainty.

"It is vital that the Executive Ministers  seize the opportunity that the potential of the devolution of corporation tax powers offers, a once in a lifetime opportunity, to make a seismic change that will drive further and higher value inward investment activity and facilitate additional investment by indigenous businesses.” 

The CBI Northern Ireland Annual Lunch was held at Titanic Quarter with over 420 guests, and its headline sponsor was Northern Ireland Electricity. The lunch was further supported by our corporate partner, Rainbow Communications, and our networking partners - Barclays and the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland. The keynote speaker was Liz Earle MBE, the founder of the best-selling Liz Earle skincare brand.

Commenting, Liz Earle MBE said:

“The diversity agenda is one that I have long championed in my work and it is one that I am delighted to see that the CBI is so supportive of. My message to business today is that when it comes to nurturing and development within your own team, especially female talent that may also have other facets, such as family life or entrepreneurial experience over a formal qualification, don’t judge a book by its cover.

"Having built several highly successful and profitable businesses with predominately female employees I am passionately pro-female when it comes to the workplace. I genuinely believe that the role of more women at the highest levels in our boardrooms will help promote the over-arching objective of the CBI, which is to ensure our businesses can compete and prosper for the benefit of all.”

Commenting on behalf of NIE, Joe O’Mahony, Managing Director said: “NIE has a long standing commitment to promoting equality of opportunity in employment across the organisation. 

"In relation specifically to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects NIE was one of the first companies in Northern Ireland to sign the STEM charter, demonstrating our commitment to improving gender balance in our business.

"As part of our extensive outreach programme we utilise our outstanding female employees as STEM ambassadors to inspire young people and encourage them to choose engineering as a career.  Within Northern Ireland we do not lack women who can excel academically, practically, technically or managerially.

"I am therefore confident that time and initiatives such as this one by CBI will help us become ‘gender-blind’ and open our eyes to the talent, ambition and ability available in our workforces.”