13 October 2015

For the first time, Civil Service Permanent Secretaries have a set of published objectives around increasing the diversity of the Civil Service: Sir Jeremy Heywood’s objectives included "increasing the proportion of women in SCS (Senior Civil Service) roles". Women currently make up over half of all civil servants, but just 39% of the Senior Civil Service. Continuing our analysis of the 2015 Annual Civil Service Employment Statistics, Emily Andrews and Gavin Freeguard dig deeper into the gender balance in the Civil Service.

There are more senior women in the Civil Service than in 2010, but women remain concentrated at junior levels. Women Women outnumber men across the Civil Service as a whole. Since 2010, the proportion of women in the Civil Service has continued to hover just above 50%: it currently stands at 54%, up from 53% in 2010. There is a different story in the Senior Civil Service, which has currently just 39% women, up from 35% since 2010. This does however continue a trend of improvement in the position of women in Whitehall over the last 30 years. These are the headlines from the Civil Service employment figures we discussed last week. But they overlay a more nuanced picture, which shows women concentrated at lower ranks to various degrees across departments. So just how senior are the women in the Civil Service, and in which departments are they in leadership roles? The Senior Civil Service has 50% women in two departments, but only just above a quarter in FCO and MoD. SCS area Departments differ widely in the gender balance of their senior civil servants. In DCLG and DCMS, 50% of the senior civil servants are women, up from 38% and 40% respectively in 2010. FCO and MoD have the smallest proportion of women (26% and 27%), although both have increased since 2010 (when they were at 21% and 20% respectively). The greatest increase in women in senior roles since 2010 has occurred in DCLG (up 12 percentage points from 38% to 50%), DfID (up 11 points, from 33% to 44%) and DECC (up 11, from 25% to 36%). DfE is the only department where the proportion of women in senior roles has decreased: from 57% to 43%. DWP has the highest proportion of women (68%), but only 38% of their senior civil servants are women. SCS CS bar Of those who work at DWP 68% are women, but at SCS level only 38% are women. DfT, which has the second-smallest proportion of women in Whitehall, is the only department where the representation of women in the Senior Civil Service (38%) exceeds that of the overall workforce (37%). SCS CS area In most departments, the gap between the proportion of women in the Senior Civil Service and in the department as a whole has shrunk since 2010. However, in four departments (DfE, DWP, MoJ and HO) the gap has widened. All of those departments saw the proportion of women in the Senior Civil Service decrease during this period, although in three of them (DWP, MoJ and HO) the proportion of women in the department as a whole went up. Across the whole Civil Service women outnumber men at the lower ranks, while men outnumber women at the higher ranks. Gender balance If we look more closely at the different grade levels, we can see that the proportion of women decreases at each step up the career ladder. Women outnumber men at the most junior level , Administrative Officer and Assistant (AO/AA, 58%), and at the Executive Officer level (EO, 56%). Of Senior and Higher Executive Officers (SEO/HEO) 47% are women; as are 44% at grades 6 and 7, up from 40% in 2010. Men outnumber women at the highest rank in all but two departments; women outnumber men at the lowest rank in all but four. Gender In almost all departments, the overall pattern is repeated: women are the majority at the lower ranks, and men at the higher ranks. FCO has the smallest proportion of women in the SCS (26%), but women make up 60% of people at AO/AA level. In DWP, which has the highest proportion of women in the Civil Service, women make up 71% of people at AO/AA level, but only 38% of the Senior Civil Service. In only one department – MoD – do men outnumber women across the board. At DfE, DfID and DH, women outnumber men at every level except the Senior Civil Service. DCLG and DCMS have the closest gender balance. In both departments, women make up 50% of the Senior Civil Service; in DCMS, the same is true of the lowest rank as well. At worst, we can say that these figures illustrate the continued existence of a wide glass ceiling in the Civil Service. At best, they reveal a large cohort of women in the Civil Service, who are being promoted into more senior roles at a growing rate. As Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood pointed out in his recent speech at the Institute for Government, 42% of senior posts in the last six months have been filled by women. In the new Permanent Secretary Diversity Objectives released last month, he has been tasked with increasing the proportion of women in senior roles across the Civil Service. Such practices should encourage the continued progress of women in the Senior Civil Service, but equality of numbers is still some way off.

Further information

Abbreviations for government departments can be found here.