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By Dawn Leane In their book The Athena Doctrine: How Women (and the men who think like them) Will Rule the Future, John Gerzema and Michael D'Antonio found that, universally, people have grown frustrated by a world dominated by what they identify as traditional masculine thinking and behaviours: control, competition, aggression and black-and-white thinking. They believe these behaviours have contributed to many of the problems we face today.  There is also a business case for greater diversity. The EY Ireland 2018 Diversity & Inclusion Report, Time to change gear, suggests that 98% of respondents believe that an inclusive environment is vital for business performance. So why are businesses failing to make meaningful progress on gender diversity? The same survey identified that almost half the respondents favour regulation as a driver for creating more diverse and inclusive organisations while 79% say they favour regulation to address gender diversity on boards – perhaps suggesting that organisations are at a loss as to how to progress. While businesses struggle to make progress on gender diversity, are there lessons to be learned from how Rwanda reconstructed its society? The women of Rwanda In 1994, Rwanda suffered appalling genocide with over a million people killed, often by neighbours or other family members. In the wake this devastation, it was the women of Rwanda who rebuilt the country. They didn’t set out to create a movement; many had little or no formal education. Nevertheless, they organised and today Rwanda has the highest percentage of female representation in the world, with 61% of seats in the lower house and 39% of seats in the upper house, held by women. If, in the face of such adversity, these women could rebuild a country where every semblance of normality had disappeared, why are affluent, educated, first-world countries unable to engender change? Organisations approach diversity, and specifically gender diversity, intellectually. They try to solve the problem with rules, regulations and interventions designed to deliver quick results. The difficulty with this approach is that while it may change behaviours, it doesn’t change underlying attitudes. Rwandan women made progress in part due to the seismic cultural change they underwent in 1994. All the societal norms and behaviours vanished overnight. In such a landscape, all bets are off and a new culture must be defined. The women of Rwanda have solidified their position in the intervening years. If we consider gender equality as an issue of organisational culture and we accept that every organisation has its own unique culture, it follows that applying universal principles, like regulation, etc. simply won’t work and could even be counter-productive. Cultural change is notoriously difficult to effect. As the saying goes, ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’. Cultural change takes years, not months. Meanwhile, over that time, more pressing business issues become a priority and, often in the face of slow or no progress, the initiative loses momentum, and staff lose trust and motivation. Adapting company culture My approach to diversity differs depending from one organisation to another. Change must take account of the company culture – not the culture the company espouses, but employees actual experience on the ground – if it is to have any chance of succeeding. Like Rwandan society, it must involve the very people who are impacted in both identifying the problem and developing the solution. In practical terms, that means doing things like asking the women who work in organisations about their experiences, as opposed to making broad assumptions and involving them in the solutions. I have worked with women employed in progressive organisations with very positive approaches to gender diversity, yet a particular line manager or other circumstances can negatively impact their experience. Successful cultural change requires a systematic approach and, in my experience, it is the sum of small sustainable changes that make the greatest impact on shifting the culture. To create a new paradigm, these changes must be consolidated and embedded in the organisation; it must become part of ‘how we do things around here’.   Dawn Leane is Principal Consultant at LeaneLeaders. 

Sep 14, 2018
Financial Reporting

The Companies (Accounting) Act 2017 (‘CA 2017’) made a range of amendments to the accounting and filing requirements of the Companies Act 2014.  This Technical Release (‘TR’) is intended as a signpost to assist with the preparation of statutory financial statements of small and micro companies. CA 2017 has reduced the number of disclosure requirements for small and micro companies compared with larger companies. The TR discusses these disclosures and also highlights some key aspects of the revised legal requirements regarding directors’ reports and abridged financial statements applying to small and micro companies.  TR 04/2018: Companies Act 2014 – Small and micro companies is available here.

Aug 29, 2018
Press release

Chartered Accountants Ireland / KBC Bank Ireland business sentiment survey, Q3 2018 Business sentiment slips in Summer ’18 on increased uncertainty Firms report further increases in output and employment in past three months Four times as many companies seeing headcount rise as fall Irish Business sees one in three chance that UK crashes out of EU without transition deal Key Brexit fears are UK market access and increased customs/regulatory burden Likely impact of Brexit on Irish business becoming less rather than more clear Business sees housing/health and ‘overheating' as priorities for Budget 2019 Irish business sentiment has weakened marginally of late as increased uncertainty about the outlook for the global economy weighs on firms’ expectations for their own activity levels in coming quarters as well as their assessment of prospects for the Irish economy as a whole. The pull back in sentiment is largely due to increased caution about the future as the summer survey found companies have continued to report stronger output and hiring in the past three months. The KBC Bank/Chartered Accountants Ireland business sentiment index slipped to 114.2 in summer 2018 from 116.4 in the spring quarter. The latest reading is the weakest since that of spring 2017.However, It should be noted that these responses signal continuing if more guarded confidence about the future as there were still notably more positive than negative responses to questions about the outlook for business and the broader Irish economy even if the gap between the two narrowed marginally since the spring survey. The survey asked a number of questions on Brexit; Only 7% of companies felt that the impact of Brexit on their companies had become clearer of late while a Significant 17% felt it had become less clear. Irish based businesses think there is a one in three chance that the UK could leave the EU as early as March 2019 without the ‘safety net’ of a transition period. This implies that the possibility of a ‘crash exit’ by the UK is regarded as a material risk by Irish business even if it is not these companies’ central scenario. Irish firms would expect very broadly based negative effects on their activity levels in the event of a ‘crash exit‘ from the EU by the UK. Some 48% of companies envisage a worsening of the business outlook while just 4% would anticipate an improvement in their prospects Irish based businesses were asked to indicate the principal channel through which the UK’s exit from the EU would affect their companies’ activity levels. Two concerns dominate: market access and an increased documentation/regulatory burden. On what should be the priority for Budget 2019, Irish business is split with equal numbers emphasising spending on social infrastructure (health and housing) and avoiding overheating in the Irish economy. The need to address serious ‘structural’ shortcomings in areas such as health and housing while reducing ‘cyclical’ concerns around a return to a ‘boom and bust’ path for the Irish economy could make for a challenging fiscal package Commenting on the survey results, Mr Barry Dempsey, Chief Executive at Chartered Accountants Ireland noted, ‘It is not surprising that increased uncertainty of late has made Irish business more cautious. However, the survey finds that Irish based companies are reporting that their levels of output and employment remain on a very solid growth path.’  Mr Austin Hughes, Chief economist at KBC Bank Ireland who prepared the survey noted, ’While the number of companies reporting job gains in the past three months is four times the number of companies reporting job losses, it is clear that confidence is being affected by a range of threats running from Brexit and trade tensions internationally to domestic concerns such as housing and overheating risks.’ Mr Hughes added, ‘although there has been a great deal more heat about Brexit recently, there doesn’t appear to be a great deal more light  as only 7% of companies say the consequences for their business operations have become clearer of late while 17% say they have gotten less clear. This may be due to the possibility of a ‘crash exit’ from the EU by the UK which is seen as a one in three possibility by companies, suggesting it is seen as a real risk even if it isn’t their central scenario.’      Mr Dempsey noted, ‘Companies see a range of threats to their activities from Brexit at present but two concerns appear to dominate. These are potential constraints to their access to the UK market and the prospect of notable increases in customs documentation and regulatory requirements. So companies appear worried about both ‘red ink’ and ‘red tape’ impacts on their operations from Brexit.’  Mr Dempsey added ‘It’s clear therefore that Irish business needs to prepare for the consequences of a ‘hard Brexit’ and our new guide “Taking the Lead - Chartered Accountants and Brexit” produced in association with the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, will help both Irish and UK businesses prepare for customs checks and controls that they could face after Brexit.’  The survey was in the field from 9th - 16th July 2018, and had 205 responses. The full report on the Q3 Business Sentiment results are available here. 

Jul 19, 2018