UK fourth in G20 public sector gender equality rankings
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%, and South Africa on 41.1% - just 1 point ahead of the UK.
But 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. Data released since the research was conducted shows that the UK's figure is now at 41.6%, meaning that the UK will step up the rankings if South Africa continues its slow growth.
The research, which is supported by international business services firm EY, has been produced by Global Government Forum: an events, research and publishing business serving senior civil servants around the world.
Alongside the data on senior civil servants, the report includes figures for the proportion of women amongst the G20 member nations' cabinet ministers, national parliamentarians, and directors on the boards of publicly-quoted private companies. A separate section tracks the proportion of women among the most senior civil service leaders of EU countries.
The top five G20 countries in the 2016-17 Index are:
· Canada (46.4%)
· Australia (43.3%)
· South Africa (41.1%)
· UK (40.1%)
· Brazil (37.8%)
Alongside the data, GGF has this year published a 40-page report using interviews with key officials and commentators to analyse the findings. This finds three broad groups amongst G20 countries: six consistent high-performers showing steady, incremental progress (mean 2016-17 score: 41.0%); seven middle-ranking countries which, on average, are moving more quickly towards equality (mean score: 31.3%); and seven poor performers, most of which are making much slower progress (mean score: 9.3%).
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.
Lord O'Donnell, the former Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service, told Global Government Forum that the findings suggest the UK may realise the goal he set out in 2008: that of achieving gender parity across the senior civil service by 2020. "If progress continues at the same rate, we will get where I wanted to be by 2020 or two or three years after that, so I regard that as very strong progress and very pleasing," he said.
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…
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%. The middle-ranking six countries have seen their average score climb from 18% to 31%.
"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."
Full findings, interviews, case studies and analysis can be found in the Women's Leaders Index report 2016-17 at:
The full data has also been published in an online tool that allows easy comparisons over time and between countries:
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