Companies get a competitive edge from having a business with a workforce that is equal, diverse and inclusive, group CEO of Bank of Ireland Francesca McDonagh has said.

Speaking at Bridging the Gap, an event focused on equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI), she said progress has been made in EDI, but corporate Ireland needs to do more.

“It is about accessing more talent and more diverse voices at the table, so there is better decision making.

“It is representative of the customer base, having decision makers that are reflective of our customer base and what is important to them is really critical.

CEO of Ornua John Jordan, group CEO of Bank of Ireland Francesca McDonagh, editor of Irish Country Living Amii McKeever, country managing director at Accenture Ireland Alastair Blair and founder and CEO of Trivium Vet Louise Grubb. \ Philip Doyle

“At the end of the day, this isn’t a HR policy or a ‘nice to have’, it is a commercial element that gives companies a competitive advantage if they get it right,” said McDonagh.

On the topic of having EDI targets or quotas, McDonagh said she would be in favour of having targets in a business over quotas.

“A target is to be reached, a quota is to be filled,” she said.

She added it is good to have targets and policies on EDI, but actions are also important.

Employee-led

Ornua CEO John Jordan also said diversity in business improves performance. He added that seven John Jordans won’t come up with different ideas.

Jordan added that change needs to be led from the bottom up, as well as the top down.

Having conversations with your employees is important, he added, and giving them the chance to come up with positive changes that can be made.

“They are the team that will come back with policies that will make a difference to our lives. We have brought in a fertility and IVF leave policy, we have brought in a miscarriage leave policy.

“That is not something that John Jordan could think of. I can’t come up with that. . .

"Making it happen really needs buy-in from the people who understand the issue and what they face on a daily basis. Then actually giving them the authority to come in and change it,” he said.

Live stream

Bridging the Gap was delivered live by the Irish Farmers Journal, in partnership with Ornua, to a virtual audience from the Killashee House Hotel, Naas, Co Kildare.

The panellists were: CEO of Ornua John Jordan, group CEO of Bank of Ireland Francesca McDonagh, country managing director at Accenture Ireland Alastair Blair and founder and CEO of Trivium Vet Louise Grubb.

Bridging the Gap was hosted by editor and CEO of the Irish Farmers Journal Justin McCarthy. The panel was moderated by editor of Irish Country Living Amii McKeever.

The live stream can be watched back here.

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