Thursday 14 December 2017

FF 'not holding its breath' on plan for 50:50 gender split in the civil service

Dara Calleary says ‘something needs to be done’ on quotas. Photo: Tom Burke
Dara Calleary says ‘something needs to be done’ on quotas. Photo: Tom Burke
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Fianna Fáil TD Dara Calleary says he is sceptical that Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe will achieve a 50:50 gender split in job appointments at the top of the civil service.

While welcoming the minister's plan for improving gender balance, Mr Calleary is not confident it will succeed given the failure to meet existing quotas on State boards.

Mr Donohoe last night announced a range of initiatives aimed at increasing the number of women being appointed to senior civil service roles.

At present, just two of the secretary generals of Government departments are women.

Mr Donohoe said he has secured Government approval for a series of measures "to help improve gender balance in the civil service, particularly at senior level, where women are under-represented".

He said it was part of efforts to reform the approach to human resources in the civil service aimed at better managing staff and to "help put us on the road to becoming an employer of choice".

Mr Donohoe's plans include a target of a 50:50 gender balance in appointments at senior levels.

The merit-based approach of the 'best person for the job' will continue to apply in the candidate selection process, a statement from his department said.

However, in cases where the candidates being considered by the Top Level Appointments Committee are of equal merit, priority will be given to the female applicant if there is under-representation of women in a given organisation.

The ESRI has also been tasked with analysing a 2015 civil service employee survey to get to the bottom of why there is an under-representation in senior grades in the civil service.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform will review the effectiveness of the measures on a regular basis to ensure they are having an impact over time, its statement said.

While welcoming the goal of the plan, Fianna Fáil public expenditure spokesman Mr Calleary expressed scepticism that the target will be met.

He argued the Government have already "failed miserably" in relation to the gender quotas on State boards.

He referred to a recent Irish Independent report showing that more than half of State boards are falling short of gender quotas. Under laws introduced in 2014, State boards are required to have a minimum of 40pc of both men and women.

Mr Calleary pointed out this target has been missed despite the direct role of ministers as part of the process of making appointments to State boards.

He said he has "no difficulties" with Mr Donohoe's plans, agreeing there is an under-representation of women in the higher ranks of the civil service and that "something needs to be done".

But he added: "I'm not holding my breath that it will be implemented."

The director of the National Women's Council of Ireland, Orla O'Connor, said her organisation has been calling for measures to improve the representation of women in the higher ranks of the civil service adding: "This initiative is welcome." She said that positive discrimination for senior jobs is "absolutely what needs to be done".

Ms O'Connor pointed to the gender quotas introduced for political candidates ahead of the last general election and said what was learned from that is intervention is required to make a difference.

She said it resulted in the biggest increase of women TDs in the Dáil in decades.

"You have to intervene. You have to do these positive actions in order to get equality," Ms O'Connor said.

She said that women must also be supported in putting themselves forward for senior managerial roles.

Irish Independent

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