At 40.1 percent, the UK has the fourth highest proportion of women amongst its senior civil servants of any country in the G20, according to newly-published research.
The UK’s score grew by 1.4 points over the past year, and South Africa’s by just 0.3 points – suggesting that Britain may soon regain its third place, which it lost to South Africa in 2014. While sitting above the G20 average (26.4 percent), the figures show there is still improvements to be made to achieve gender parity in the UK public sector. The research, produced by Global Government Forum: an events, research and publishing business serving senior civil servants around the world, is supported by international business services firm EY.
Canada has held the top slot every year since the 2013 foundation of the Women Leaders Index – a global league table tracking gender equality among senior public servants. It’s followed by Australia, on 43.3 percent, and South Africa on 41.1 percent – just 1 point ahead of the UK. The top five G20 countries in the 2016-17 Index are: Canada (46.4 percent); Australia (43.3 percent); South Africa (41.1 percent); UK (40.1 percent); Brazil (37.8 percent).
Melanie Dawes, the Permanent Secretary at the Department for Communities and Local Government – who is the current UK Civil Service Gender Champion – commented that “we are making good progress – but we still have got further to go at the top, and these things can slip away from you if you don’t keep up consistent pressure. It’s still the case that some departments… are not nearly as gender-balanced as others. So we’ve still got work to do there.”
Despite the progress on the G20 stage, in the EU the UK sits at 35.1 percent, below the EU average of 38.2 percent when measuring the number of female workers in the highest two tiers (Level 1 and 2 Administrators) of civil service leadership positions. Topping the rankings in the EU are the Balkan and Baltic nations of Eastern Europe; Slovenia 56.9 percent, Romania 53.4 percent, Latvia 53.3 percent.
The report finds three broad groups amongst G20 countries: six consistent high-performers showing steady, incremental progress (mean 2016-17 score: 41.0 percent); seven middle-ranking countries which, on average, are moving more quickly towards equality (mean score: 31.3 percent); and seven poor performers, most of which are making much slower progress (mean score: 9.3 percent). Global Government Forum’s analysis finds that reforms to legislation, employment & working practices, and recruitment & promotion systems can provide a dramatic boost for gender equality – but only when they’re carefully built to address each nation’s specific problems and challenges.
It makes clear that strong political leadership is important in making progress, as are changes to workplace cultures. Controversially, it also finds strong evidence that quotas have often proved effective in driving up women’s representation. Kevin Sorkin, Global Government Forum’s managing director, commented: “Since we first published the Women Leaders Index in 2013, the six top performers in the G20 have inched ever closer towards gender parity amongst senior civil servants – with their mean score rising from 36 to 41 percent. The middle-ranking six countries have seen their average score climb from 18 percent to 31 percent.
“As our interviews reveal, this kind of progress produces big rewards in terms of better decision-making, bigger talent pools and, ultimately, stronger public service delivery for the public. But there is more work to do: we hope that publishing this data will help senior officials both to make the case for change, and to identify the best ways to make progress.”