8. Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans to improve the gender balance on each of the State boards under his remit. (Question 53246/17 asked on 14 Dec 2017)

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): Each Minister is ultimately responsible for appointments to boards under their aegis and must have regard to the Guidelines on Appointments to State Boards. Relevant issues relating to the effective operation of each board, including those such as diversity, gender balance and mix of expertise and skill sets are for each Minister to consider.

As set out in the Guidelines, compliance with the Government Decision of 23 July 2014 on Gender Balance on State Boards is an essential requirement.

These requirements include:

- Each Department should prepare a plan to reaffirm and achieve the target of at least 40% for representation of each gender on State Boards within its remit during the lifetime of the present Government.

- Departments should maintain a particular focus on those Boards on which either women or men are currently significantly under-represented and should actively seek to appoint candidates of the under-represented gender from the PAS short list.

- Departments should in the case of Boards which have already achieved the 40% target seek to move towards 45% of each gender as a new target for gender equality.

Indications are that 48% of State boards have reached the target of a minimum of 40% female membership set by the Government and indeed that some 35% of boards have met the higher 45% target. This compares very favourably with the private sector, with a figure of somewhere around 13% female participation. The position on individual State boards is a matter for the relevant Minister.

Up to the end of September this year, over 500 appointments have been made under the new system. Some 30% of over 8,700 applications received for state board appointment came from women, who made up some 45% of the appointments made.

The Board of the Public Appointments Service (PAS) is the only State Board under the aegis of my Department. The Public Service Management (Recruitment and Appointments) Act 2004, which established PAS, specifies that the chairperson and ordinary members of the Board shall be appointed by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform in consultation with the Minister for Health, the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government and the Minister for Justice and Equality.

The Act also specifies that in appointing persons as members of the Board the Minister shall ensure that:

- at least 2 of them have either or both civil service and other public service experience and knowledge which the Minister considers relevant, and

- at least 2 of them have expertise in human resource management, customer service and recruitment outside the public service which the Minister considers relevant.

Up until recently, five of the nine members (or 55%) were women, including the 3 positions recruited through the State Board process operated by PAS. However, two of these three positions are currently vacant but are in the process of being filled through the PAS process and the issue of gender balance will be considered along with other issues. There is also a third vacancy which is normally filled following a recommendation from the Minister for Justice and Equality.