Balance of Power: How More Women Are On Their Way To The Top

LEADERSHIP PROGRAMMESPOSITIVE BIAS and HISTORICAL FACTORS mean more women are at, or on their way to, the top …

Máiréad Sorensen, second from left, with members of her board.
Máiréad Sorensen, second from left, with members of her board.


Women play a big part in the production of cocoa and the consumption of chocolate and lately their influence in the sector has grown at board level. During last month’s meeting of the Women in Cocoa and Chocolate Network (WINCC) initiator Beatrice Moulianitaki emphasised the need to stop talking about women in the cocoa fields and talk about what women can do throughout the supply chain and at the very top levels. We know all about this in Ireland where women have been very prevalent in the chocolate scene for decades. Máiréad Sorensen, chair of the board of Butlers Chocolates, and her brother Colm who is Managing Director, have together overseen the family’s business expand into over 30 countries, with the 20th Butler’s Chocolate Café in Ireland opening on Grafton Street this month. She is also part of a gender-balanced board. “I am proud that 50 per cent of our board is female. I know it is a source of strength and I believe it translates to the bottom line.” The company celebrates 85 years in business this month. Sweet.


Women are by far the most dominant consumers in the fashion industry, yet in spite of comprising more than 70 per cent of the total workforce, women hold less than 25 per cent of leadership positions in top fashion companies. So, their point of view is not reflected in business decisions. Recognising that more women at the upper echelons will lend competitive edge, LVMH Group, with its portfolio of luxury brands, set out to establish initiatives – networks, mentoring, coaching – to buck that trend. Now, at LVMH Group, 38 per cent of executives are female.

Caitríona Fottrell, far right, with Loretta Brennan Glucksmann and HE Patricia O'Brien, Ambassador to France
Caitríona Fottrell, far right, with Loretta Brennan Glucksmann and HE Patricia O’Brien, Ambassador to France


According to a recent survey carried out by Catalyst, an international nonprofit dedicated to progressing more inclusive workplaces, just ten per cent of Irish nonprofit company directors are women. When compared to other EU states, this figure is low – only Portugal has a lower percentage, at 7.9%. Women hold 22.8% of board positions in the UK and 29.7% in France. We wondered – how do the boards of Irish nonprofits compare with this? The Benefacts Database of Irish Nonprofits reveals that women form an average of 37% of the members of the boards of all nonprofits in Ireland – 27% above the national average. Caitríona Fottrell, who is the Director of The Ireland Funds and is on the board of the Social Innovation Fund, believes one of the reasons why more women reach board-level in nonprofits may be the fact that by definition the purpose of the non-profit sector is to provide inclusion and equality and therefore nonprofits have to live it themselves by ensuring balance and inclusion on their boards. “I believe this drive to address issues of inequality and inclusion make the philanthropy sector more progressive with respect to gender balance.”

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