First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness have welcomed Executive agreement to set targets for greater gender diversity in public appointments.
Ministers have agreed challenging targets for achieving gender equality in public appointments as part of a package of measures to broaden involvement of under-represented group in public life.
First Minister Arlene Foster said: “I recognise that some sections of our society in Northern Ireland are currently under-represented on the boards of public bodies. It is important on International Women’s Day to reaffirm the Executive’s commitment to achieving greater diversity in public appointments, consistent with the overall principle of selection on merit.
“We agree with the Commissioner for Public Appointments that action is needed to increase participation among key groups and this agreement represents a clear commitment to delivery from the Northern Ireland Executive.”
The deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said: “I strongly believe public bodies can only benefit from a range of views, experiences and background among those who lead them.
“I am confident these targets, combined with a range of initiatives aimed at encouraging participation rates of under-represented groups will not only make public bodies more representative of our community, but also make them more effective in their respective roles.
“In the week of the Assembly’s Women’s Week which aims to highlight the need for more women in politics and public life, I fully endorse the Executive’s shared determination to deliver meaningful change and practical action to increase diversity.”
Ministers agreed to a range of initiatives to help address the current imbalance, not only for women but for other under-represented groups. Targets have been set to achieve gender equality by 2017/18 for in year appointments, and by 2020/21 for all other appointments.
Other measures include identifying obstacles to participation, reviewing the culture of boards to ensure inclusivity, looking at remuneration levels and examining the ongoing need for statutory nominations.
Further research is also planned into examining participation rates of ethnic minorities, people with disabilities and young people.
OFMDFM, in conjunction with other departments, is actively taking forward the recommendations in the previous Commissioner’s report “Under representation and lack of diversity in public appointments” in 2014. The actions agreed by the Executive will assist in delivery on some of these key recommendations.