Leo Varadkar said Germany has legislated in this area and it is now mandatory for firms there with more than three board members to have at least one woman as a director.

He added that companies in which the German government has a stake require 30% of their board to be female.

“That approach is one I think we need to look into for the future here,” Mr Varadkar told the Balance for Better Business launch of its third report.

It found that while ISEQ 20 companies on average have achieved a 2021 target of having 27% of their board members women, the target for all listed companies to have at least one woman on their senior leadership team by the end this year will be missed.

The report also found that while Ireland’s ranking among EU28 companies continues to improve – from 17th to 13th in the last two years – only 27% of all new board appointments in the last year were female.

Meanwhile no women have been appointed to Executive Director roles in the 18 months to the start of September.

As a result, the campaign has called for Irish companies to urgently address the serious gender imbalance that persists among senior management teams.

Some progress has been made though and as of 1 September: 22.4% of listed company directors were female, compared to 19.1% a year earlier.

Currently, five listed company boards – AIB, CRH, Bank of Ireland, Ryanair and CPL – have reached or exceeded the 40% balance targets.

The Tánaiste said ensuring gender balance was not just the right thing to do, but there is also a strong business case for doing so as companies with diverse boards and senior leadership teams outperform those that don’t.

He added that despite improvements, there is still quite a distance to travel here.

The 30% Club Ireland welcomed the latest report saying it represents real progress, but added that more is needed.

While the Institute of Directors (IoD) called for more transparency and planned succession planning for board appointments.

“Our ‘Diversity in the Boardroom’ report last year found that only one-in-10 board members were appointed through an independent recruitment process,” said Maura Quinn, CEO of the IoD in Ireland.

“This leads to the reinforcement of the perception that board appointments are about personal contacts rather than selecting the best candidates.”