News & Events

Enterprise Ireland launches Level Project Toolkit aimed at helping businesses develop gender balanced leadership teams

International research shows enhancing gender balance of senior teams helps to build strong leadership, attract talent and improve performance 

Minister of State for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation, Robert Troy TD and Enterprise Ireland today launched The Level Project Action Planning Toolkit aimed at helping businesses develop gender balanced leadership teams which are proven to achieve higher sales growth, and better profits.

The Level Project aims to highlight to businesses that enhancing the gender balance of their senior teams can build strong leadership, attract talent and improve overall performance. It is an initiative of Enterprise Ireland’s “Women in Business” action plan, a wide-ranging strategy to achieve greater representation of women in business, particularly, in business leadership across Ireland.

The online Action Planning Toolkit will assist companies to assess their own position across six key themes and to put measures in place to help improve gender balance within their own senior teams.  The Action Planning Toolkit produces an individual action plan for each business.  The toolkit will be launched at The Level Project webinar today, which will feature key insights from four Level Project champions on how they are implementing strategies to improve the gender mix of their company’s leadership teams.

Evelyn O’Toole, CEO, CLS; Kevin Buckley, CEO, Spearline; Pat O’Connor, MD, VRAI and Vivian Farrell, CEO, Modular Automation will discuss why they believe gender balance in leadership is important for their businesses to thrive, as well as what they have done or are doing to improve the gender balance on their own senior management teams.

Officially launching The Level Project Action Planning Toolkit, Minister of State for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation, Robert Troy TD:

Businesses that reflect the make-up of our society and are more balanced are proven to perform better. The Level Project Action Planning toolkit from Enterprise Ireland is a welcome initiative which provides practical steps for companies to put in place measures to address their specific gender balance needs. Gender balance at senior level is critical to organisational success and I want to encourage all Irish companies to look at how this toolkit can help them to achieve greater diversity and greater business success.”

Leo Clancy, CEO Enterprise Ireland:

“Our role at Enterprise Ireland is to support Irish companies to be the best they can be, and we believe that taking action on gender balance in decision making is one way they can do this. The Level Project highlights the real opportunity that exists to broaden the talent pool for knowledge. The Toolkit is the result of the combined effort of people across our own organisation, with a huge amount of help and support from, in particular, the 30% Club and the Balance for Better Business initiative. We encourage Irish businesses to use the toolkit to put in place their gender balance action plan.”

 Evelyn O’Toole, CEO, CLS:

“My ideal balance is 50/50, I think it’s really important to have that diversity in gender as some people work better with female leadership and others work better with male leadership.

“I think if you start a trend at the start of a company, that trend intensifies as the company gets bigger. As CEO, I need to make sure that gender diversity is there by bringing the men along with us, to ensure we have that good mix in the company. If there’s skill, performance and ambition, then it’s about nurturing that and kicking the door open.”

Over the past decade, Enterprise Ireland has delivered a number of initiatives to encourage diversity, promote female entrepreneurship and increase the number of women-led HPSUs, including dedicated funding for early-stage female entrepreneurs, showcasing roles models, capability building combined with peer to peer networking. Strong gains have been made in this area, including: 

  • In 2020 42% supported companies under Competitive Start Fund were to women led business.
  • In 2020 24% of our High Potential Start Ups included a woman founder, up from 7% in 2011 and 22% of deals supported under the Halo Business Angels Network (HBAN) had female founders.
  • Enterprise Ireland has a dedicated €1m funding stream for woman entrepreneurs under the Competitive Start Fund programme.
  • Since 2013 75% of the funds that Enterprise Ireland supports through the Seed &Venture Capital investment have a woman at partner/investment manager level.
  • In October 2021, European tech magazine SIFTED listed Enterprise Ireland as the number one VC in Europe by deal counts in Female Founders over the past five years.


About Enterprise Ireland

Enterprise Ireland is the Irish government agency responsible for the development and growth of Irish companies internationally in order to grow exports and jobs. Enterprise Ireland works with entrepreneurs and businesses to help them to start-up, develop innovative products and services, and scale internationally. Enterprise Ireland facilitates access to international markets through its international office network, supports business strategy & management capability training and provides finance, investment and research expertise.

About The Level Project

“The Level Project” is Enterprise Ireland’s new gender balance initiative to increase the number of women in leadership and senior management positions in Irish SMEs. This initiative is arising out of Enterprise Ireland’s six-year strategy for Women in Business.

Companies can access the toolkit at: 

Link to Action Plan: Action Plan for Women in Business Strategy (PDF, 4.2MB)

Summary of international research with excerpts

Improving gender balance in senior positions confers critical business benefits to companies:

  • Increased ability to attract and retain talent
  • Greater creativity, innovation and openness
  • Better ability to gauge consumer interest and demand
  • Greater client and customer satisfaction
  • Enhanced company reputation
  • Increased profitability
  • Better performance on investments

“Decision-making, governance and business performance are significantly improved in companies with better gender balance at all levels, including the most senior. Dealing with the effects of COVID-19 and Brexit will demand focused action and will, in many businesses, threaten survival, success and sustainability. These challenges re-enforce rather than diminish the case for gender balanced leadership given the proven benefits to performance and outcomes.” (Balance for Better Business, 2020)

“There is a substantial performance differential—48 percent—between the most and least gender-diverse companies” (McKinsey 2020)

“To win the fight for female talent, it’s not enough for an employer to have an attractive talent brand: it’s also vital to have an inclusive talent brand.” (PwC 2017)

“The proportion of women in management positions has the most consistent and robust effect on corporate performance, followed by the proportions of women on the board and then women in the total workforce” (RobecoSAM 2020)

“Gender diversity will be an answer to many of the problems currently facing companies. The organisations with the most innovative brands, the most engaged employees and the strongest balance sheets boast a diverse workforce. In future, the companies that thrive will be gender diverse” (Future of Work Institute, CPL)