Yvonne Traynor, Board member and Chair of the People and Culture committee at HSE Ireland
Please tell us a little about yourself and your role as Board member and Chair of the People and Culture committee at HSE Ireland?
I recently retired from my corporate career having spent 30 years in the chemical and food industries. I was fortunate to have had a varied career in international leadership roles in R&D, Quality Management and Regulatory Affairs. During that time I invested a lot of time continuing my education and personal development.
My background is in Chemistry, Pharmacology and Mathematics. While this was very helpful in making scientific decisions it did not really prepare me for future leadership roles. I completed a Certified Diploma in Accounting & Finance and MSc in Executive Leadership.
As I approached retirement I also became a Chartered Director and began to look for board roles. This was very important preparation and ensured I understood the responsibilities of being a director.
Currently I am on the board of the HSE and I chair the People and Culture Committee. As the biggest employer in the country a special focus by the board on people is critical. Typically boards meet once per month and depending on membership of committees there will be other meetings and of course preparation time.
The HSE has undergone a period of crisis dealing with a pandemic as well as a cyber-attack, so the time commitment has been a lot more expected. However, it has been a very enriching experience and allows me to use my past experience and to continue learning.
What does diversity, equity and inclusion mean to you and why is it so important?
Excluding any group in society leads to one dimensional thinking. Role models must be seen in all decision making roles to inspire the next generation.
Why is it important to have women on boards?
Everyone has different life experiences and the more diverse the knowledge and contribution on a board, the better the decision making.
What are the main barriers to women representation on boards?
I don’t believe there are barriers. Ireland does not have quotas for state boards like other countries but have higher levels of women on boards. In general, selection panels are conscious of the need for balance so you just need to apply.
How should you prepare to take on a board position? What skills should you acquire?
I would recommend taking a chartered director course. Early in your career it is good to volunteer to lead meetings or chair committees or projects. Getting involved at a committee level in sports clubs or school boards of management is also a good way of gaining experience of the dynamics of a company.
Boardmatch are always looking for directors for charitable organisations and will try to place you on a board that fits your experience.
Expand your network. Word of mouth can also help you get information about corporate boards looking for new members.
Any final thoughts?
Don’t worry if you feel you are not as well qualified as other potential candidates. Your experience is probably more valuable than you think.