A survey of businesses that signed up to a pledge to improve diversity and inclusion in their workplaces has found higher levels of female participation at senior and executive levels compared to the national average.

The 'Elevate Report' from Business in the Community Ireland found 38% female representation at senior executive roles, higher than the national average of 30%.

The study looked at almost 120,000 workers employed by 50 companies that last year signed up to the 'Elevate Pledge'.

The firms committed to making their workplaces more diverse and inclusive and agreed to begin the task of measuring and disclosing workforce data across gender, age, disability, ethnicity and sexual orientation.

The report's authors said disclosures on gender and age were "very good" while other areas such as ethnicity and disability were at a less advanced stage - a position they believe will change as companies familiarise themselves with the process and create a culture that will allow employees to embrace voluntary disclosures, a current key barrier in measuring diversity.

Most of the signatories to the Elevate Pledge have introduced gender specific initiatives in a bid to create a better balance.

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According to the report, workforce entry points at gender level at 52% male and 48% female, were as anticipated but women were ahead of the national average at senior and executive level compared with the CSO national statistics.

The study found that women fill 30% of top earning posts (€120,000 and upwards) and are also disproportionately over-represented in the lowest salary bands (less than €26,000).

The report also points to the necessity for businesses to develop age-friendly workplaces.

Just 1% of the of 120,000 employees in the study were aged 65 or over with 84% aged between 26 and 65.

This is the first 'Elevate Report' and it is hoped successive annual reports in the years ahead will be able to benchmark progress across inclusion and diversity.

"While the study is representative of just 50 companies involving 120,000 employees, it points to good news in the increasing representation of women at senior management level," said Tomás Sercovich, CEO of Business in the Community Ireland.

"This is real change and one that we hope will be replicated in the other areas which the Elevate report will capture in succeeding years," he added.