CALL TO OPEN UP DEBATE ON BOARDROOM QUOTAS - Today is International Women's Day and a host of studies have found that female representation at the top of large organisations is well below target. Accountancy firm Grant Thornton found that the situation regressed after the downturn and there are fewer women in senior corporate position now than there were four years ago.

Sinead Donovan, a partner with Grant Thornton, says the group surveyed 3,500 companies worldwide and 100 companies - both listed and private - in Ireland. Ms Donovan said that the number of women in senior business has fallen to 21% this year. ''There's no evidential reasons as to why but we're surmising that it's down to the economy. That's mirrored in all other European countries where there is recession," Sinead Donovan points out. In emerging markets, the report finds that there has been a huge increase in the number of women in senior positions or on boards, she adds.

Sinead Donovan says the time may have arrived to look seriously at introducing quotas. "We could be debating this topic ten years from now if we don't kickstart the initiative. We need to open the debate on quotas and back it up with strong, robust and ethical women on the boards of Irish companies." The report also found that there was no correlation between a high degree of flexible working and the success of women in senior positions. "However, flexible working acts as a touchstone for those years where women who have to take a step back in their career at a certain point. It is important as it lets them step back in and gear up to get to a senior position. There's a place for it but we can't rely too heavily on it,'' Ms Donovan states.


MORNING BRIEFS - The SFA awarded its national small business award to Megazyme International - a biotechnology company based in Bray that employs 34 people. The PricewaterhouuseCoopers's Dockland Innovation Awards were also held last night and the winner was Ronan Clarke, chief executive of Smart Wall Paint. He has developed a paint that turns any surface into a whiteboard. Another product, a clear erasable paint - is also being developed.

*** The National Pensions Reserve Fund has announced a new round of investment in innovation and development. It has committed €10m to Innovation Fund Ireland - and this particular fund will be managed by Highland Europe, a venture capital investor. It will focus on investment in existing technology companies which are at an expansion stage. The idea of Innovation Fund Ireland is to attract venture capital fund managers to Ireland and to increase the flow of capital to early-stage and high-growth companies.

*** The best large workplace in Ireland is Diageo according to this year's Great Places to Work, which is published in today's Irish Times. The best medium company is Mars while property consultants Jones Lang LaSalle is the best small workplace.