The 30% Club and its campaign of influence

by Stephen Conmy on Mar 2, 2022

Full name

Gillian Harford

Job Title

Country Executive, Ireland

Company Name

The 30% Club


Gillian Harford is a senior HR executive who works directly with client organisations focusing on diversity and workplace change. Sponsored by EY, Gillian also operates as the country executive for the 30% Club, a global campaign supported by chairpeople and CEOs driving gender balance on boards and in the C-suite.

Gillian is the former head of HR strategy & planning with AIB. With a career spanning almost 40 years, she has been responsible for significant people change with a particular focus on culture, career, diversity and agile work.

Gillian holds a BA, an MBA from Michael Smurfit Business School UCD, and the Professional Diploma in Corporate Governance. She is a member of the Institute of Directors, a fellow of CIPD, and a fellow of the Institute of Bankers.

Gillian is also a member of the board for the Central Remedial Clinic and is an advisory group member for the government-based initiative Balance for Better Business.

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Gillian Harford is the country executive for the 30% Club in Ireland. The 30% Club’s mission is quite simple; it wants to see at least 30% of boards and C-suites comprising of women. While a lot has been achieved since the club began in 2010, a lot more needs to be done to ensure 30% is achieved and that more women are in chairperson, CEO and CFO roles in firms around the world and the gender balance represents all women. 

In this interview with Delphine Joyeux and Stephen Conmy of the Corporate Governance Institute, Gillian Harford discusses, among other things: 

  • Why the campaign was started
  • Who and what organisations are involved in the campaign
  • What has been achieved since 2010
  • In the early days, the reaction to the club from people in, for example, C-suite and Board positions? 
  • How the 30% Club is a campaign of influence, and how it works in practice
  • Why 30% is a target, not a quota, and why this is an important distinction? 
  • Why firms with more than 30% women executives are more likely to outperform companies where this percentage ranged from 10 to 30.
  • What chairs and CEOs can do to support the campaign
  • The impact of more women in the boardroom
  • The current ambition for the 30% Club

‘It’s probably best to describe the 30% Club as a campaign of influence. Our vision is very clear. Originally we focused on boards, and now we focus on boards and C-suites. We want to see at least 30% of boards and C-suits comprising of women.’

In 2010, Helena Morrissey, the founder of 30% Club, felt a responsibility to help other women “because it seems like FTSE 100 companies have nowhere near enough female executives at the top” and reached out directly to the chief executive officers of the UK’s top companies.

“Helena Morrissey understood that while women’s networks are very important, they were not actually moving women up. The only people who could do that were the people in power, and Helena’s idea was to start with the board: it’s at the top of the organisation, it’s visible, and it gets measured,” says Brenda Trenowden, head of FIG Europe, ANZ Bank, and global chair, 30% Club. 

‘In the 30% Club, we see gender quotas as something forcibly applied to organisations where there are consequences for failure. Instead, we like the concept of targets that are voluntary which you step up to as an org and take accountability for progress. Targets can grow and drive sustainable pipeline progress while quotas once achieved will drive no incentive for further growth.’

Gillian Harford
The 30% Club
women on boards

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