Sunday 15 September 2019

Lack of women in senior civil service positions 'due to years of austerity' says HR boss

The Government has come under fire for the lack of women in leadership positions in the civil service
The Government has come under fire for the lack of women in leadership positions in the civil service
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

The human resources exec in charge of recruitment in the civil service has blamed a dearth of women in senior roles on austerity.

David Cagney, chief human resources officer at the Irish government’s Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, spoke with researchers from the Global Government Forum project which looks at the role of women in senior civil service roles across Ireland, the EU, and other G20 nations.

Ireland ranked 25 out of 28 EU countries for the number of women in leading civil service roles, at 29.9pc. The average for the EU is 38.2pc.

Last week revealed that just two out of 15 heads of government departments are women. Women in the civil service are more likely to occupy jobs on lower pay grades than their male colelagues - even when the number of women working in a department is greater than the number of men employed there.

Mr Cagney told researchers that due to the crash and subsequent recruitment bans there was very little movement of any kind within the services.

However as the country is in recovery he said “things are starting to loosen up and in that context we can take some steps to address these issues”.

There is a target of 50/50 gender balance for senior appointments the civil service is "not in the business of positive discrimination per se".

"But in a situation where a male and a female candidate are of equal merit in relation to a position, we will have regard to the gender balance of the senior management team of the organisation to which the appointment is going to be made – and that may well influence the decision of the appointment board," he said.

“Our view is that that would be counter-productive; and that’s the view of quite a lot of females too, who are anxious they are not seen as token appointments,” says Cagney.  “We don’t want to take a ‘stick’ approach. We want this done as part of good practice, not as part of compliance,” Mr Cagney said.

Senior staff members are also being given "unconscious bias training" and a talent management programmes is also being rolled out with a 50/50 gender balance expected.

Mr Cagney said the service is hoping to attract more women to apply for advertised roles and is " looking at the language in which competitions are described and skills requirements are expressed, to ensure they are not impediments to women applying for senior positions".

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