Just 21 percent of senior business roles in Ireland are held by women, new research shows.

Marking International Woman's Day, Grant Thornton research shows that the numbers of women in senior management is actually down slightly on 2009 levels.

The research shows that the average level of representation around the world was 24 percent, with Ireland 36th out of 44 countries and just ahead of the U.S. and U.K.

The Grant Thornton study also shows that seven percent of Irish firms plan to promote more women into senior management roles over the next year, while 17 percent of board directors on Irish firms are women.

On flexible working, Ireland is the lowest ranked EU country apart from Greece. Fifty-three percent of companies in Ireland offer family friendly working solutions compared to an EU average of 74 percent.

Grant Thornton's Sinead Donovan said the disappointing picture may be explained by the weakness of the Irish economy, which has given little room for career progress and so has allowed the status quo to continue.

She also said that despite the lack of progress, only 37 percent of companies would support the introduction of quotas on the number of women on the boards of listing companies.

“There is widespread opposition to quotas which I think is understandable given that successful professional women in Ireland want a promotion because they are the best for the job, rather than a leg-up via legislation,” she added.

However, research by website Vision-net claims that the number of female directors of Irish companies has shot up 14 percent since the recession began. It said that the number of women directors in Irish companies stands at 104,971, compared to 92,281 five years ago and 48,571 a decade ago.

The number of Irish company directors is 494,646 and, of these, one in five is a woman.

Only 21 percent of executives in Ireland are femaleGoogle