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More women in senior public roles: But more also needs to be done to close this gender gap

The number of women in senior public roles is improving, but more needs to be done to close the gender gap.

The UK ranks fourth among the G20 for the number of women in senior public sector roles, according to the Global Government Forum’s Women Leaders Index.

The UK’s score grew by 1.4 points over the past year to 40.1 per cent and was above the G20’s average of 26.4 per cent. The country which held the highest number of female leaders was Canada at 46.4 per cent, followed by Australia at 43.3 per cent, while South Africa was third at 41.1 per cent.

However, the UK lagged behind the EU when it came to the number of female workers in the highest two tiers of civil leadership positions. Figures were 35.1 per cent and 38.2 per cent respectively.

The EU countries with the top rankings were Slovenia at 56.9 per cent, Romania at 53.4 per cent and Latvia at 53.3 per cent.

Melanie Dawes, the Permanent Secretary at the Department for Communities and Local Government – who is the current UK Civil Service Gender Champion – said: “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.”

The study also found strong evidence that quotas were effective in driving up women’s representation.

Kevin Sorkin, Managing Director of the Global Government Forum, said: “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 per cent to 41 per cent. The middle-ranking six countries have seen their average score climb from 18 per cent to 31 per cent.

“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.”