Civil services are making progress on gender diversity – but those gains are under threat
An interesting article from the Global Government Forum:
The Women Leaders Index shows that most G20 countries are improving gender equality amongst civil service leaders. But speakers at the Index’s formal launch warned of the ever-louder voices of misogynists in politics and wider society – creating pressures that could roll back equality’s hard-won successes.
At last week’s official launch of the Women Leaders Index (WLI), which ranks the major economies according to the proportion of women among senior civil servants, the speakers were upbeat about the steady progress visible on gender parity within public sector workforces. But they pointed to a darker political and social background, in which elected leaders and social media platforms fail to challenge the high levels of vitriolic abuse directed against women.
“Social media in the modern age has opened all sorts of hideous behaviours, and some of those involve extraordinary amounts of misogyny,” commented Melanie Dawes, permanent secretary of the UK’s Department for Communities and Local Government and the civil service’s Gender Champion. “I’m quite concerned about our politics; about how much harder it is becoming to be a female MP.”
Siobhan Benita, a former head of civil service governance and communications who chaired the event for Global Government Forum – publishers of the WLI – expressed her fears that the “political context will start to undermine things that you’re doing in the civil service.” Referring to the US president as a “misogynistic man-child”, Benita warned that “all the protections for women that have taken so much effort and time to put in place can be undermined so quickly if you get that type of person in power.”
Similar dynamics can be seen at work in the UK, warned Shaun Scantlebury – head of the diversity and inclusion consultancy practice at professional services firm EY, which sponsored the WLI. “Brexit has, in some people’s minds, given license to the release of some unsavoury behaviours,” he said.
Within the UK civil service “our gender can be confident; we can be optimistic; we’ve got a lot of protections; we’ve made good progress,” added Dawes. “There is a sense of how far we’ve come – but we can lose out so quickly.”
Read the rest of the article here.