by Richard Buckley, Editor, Business Eye

Diversity Mark NI is Northern Irelands only independent not-for-profit charter mark. At their second Business of Diversity Lunch they welcomed special guest Gary Kennedy, Chair of Greencore.

He is also co-chair of Balance for Better Business, a business group launched by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to improve gender balance in senior leadership in Ireland.


The lunch, sponsored by Danske Bank and First Derivatives plc, welcomed over 100 of the country’s CEO’s and senior business leaders who gathered in support of working together to achieve a better diversity in business.


Gary Kennedy, who is also Chairman of Connect Group plc and Green REIT plc, was interviewed by journalist and broadcaster, Wendy Austin, and spoke passionately about the impact of gender disparities in the workplace across Ireland and the importance of implementing diversity and inclusion programmes to drive business growth.


Head of Business at Diversity Mark NI, Christine White said, “We are absolutely delighted to welcome Gary Kennedy to our event today and to learn about Balance for Better Business, where government and businesses are working together to achieve cultural change in business leadership that will ultimately position them as market leaders in corporate decision-making.  With only 18% of board directors being female and over one third of companies in Ireland having no female representation at all, Gary stressed that businesses cannot afford to ignore the valuable talent of over half of the population.


Hosting this series of events is extremely important as it signifies the crucial work needed to further gender balance and diversity within the workplace. As women make up 50% of the population, we place emphasis on gender diversity and recognise the need for a wider diversity and inclusion in organisations for them to reach their full potential. A balanced workforce is good for business, customers and profitability and I would urge companies to sign up to our Charter Mark.”


With the aim of increasing women’s representation in governance and senior management, Balance for Better Business has set challenging targets – it is seeking to achieve 33% female representation on boards of ISEQ 20 companies by 2023 and no all-male boards by the end of 2019.


Commenting on the vital impact that gender balance can make within boards, Gary said: “The female cohort is the most underutilized economic asset in the world, bar none. The time for excuses is long past. Diversity and meritocracy can sit equally and easily at the same table.”


Speaking at the event, Gary also discussed how vital it is for companies to take action to introduce the necessary reforms to build and grow a diverse workforce that is exciting and appealing to everyone involved: “54% of 3rd level graduates are female, 70% of consumer spending decisions are taken by females, but we don’t have that breadth and depth of wisdom in business. The need for change must be driven by the willingness of the organisation but also pressure from stakeholders and proxy advisors.”


Local Newry companies awarded at the Diversity Charter Mark lunch included First Derivatives plc. and St. Ronan’s Primary School, Newry.  The Consumer Council, A&L Goodbody, Denroy and Outsource solutions were also awarded at the lunch.


If you are interested in pledging your company’s commitment to the Diversity Charter Mark find out more at or contact Christine White at


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Head of Business, Diversity Mark NI, Christine White with Donna Marie Gill representing Sponsor Danske Bank, Guest Speaker Gary Kennedy, Catherine Harrison representing Sponsor First Derivatives and Chair of Diverity Mark NI, Nicola Robinson.


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