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Gender barriers

Women are still under-represented in senior management and a pay gap between men and women still exists. In the policy quarterly article ‘Engendering Diversity: women's employment in the Public Service'[3], the authors have looked at the progress of women in the Public Service over the last 15 years. Although progress has been made, a gap still exists, and the paper suggests that Better Public Services reforms present an opportunity for system-wide capability development and a more joined-up approach to promoting and encouraging talented women.

Working together, Ministry for Women and the SSC have brought the diversity discussion to the top table, through the SSC's career board process. It has encouraged sectors to think about gender and ethnic diversity as they look to find top talent and fill vacant positions in their leadership groups. Ministry for Women have been sharing its evidence about what organisations need to do to improve progression of women.

The New Zealand Public Service is well-placed compared to other countries for its representation of women in middle and senior management. It has reached equal representation for management as a whole, and is in the top five countries in the OECD for its representation of women in senior management. Only Poland stands out for this figure, at 47%, compared to 40% for New Zealand (measured by OECD in 2010)[4].

Within certain occupational groups, there is a large under/ over-representation of women, particularly in clerical and administrative roles, and ICT and regulatory roles. The small number of women in ICT roles is a global issue, with a number of large technology companies hitting the spotlight for gender discriminative policies or cultures.

New Zealand stands out in OECD comparisons for its high level of women in administrative roles (81% vs an OECD average of 65%).

[3] Washington, Peak and Fahey "Engendering Diversity – women's employment in the public service." Policy Quarterly, 2015 11-17

[4] OECD (2013), Government at a Glance 2013, OECD Publishing, Paris

Actions for organisations to increase the representation of women in leadership

There is a fast growing body of literature on what works to improve women's leadership representation in organisations. This is a summary of common actions taken by organisations that have made progress.

  1. Leadership by the Chief Executive and executive team. A CE and executive team who communicate a clear business case and visibly take action is a precondition for change.
  2. Analyse staff data. Data disaggregated by gender and ethnicity enables organisations to identify where women are not progressing. Many organisations also survey male and female staff on their career experiences and perceptions.
  3. Implement unconscious bias training for all managers. Raising awareness about unconscious biases can reduce its impact on recruitment, development, evaluation and progression decisions.
  4. Amend talent management policies and practices. Transparent, consistent and moderated recruitment, performance, evaluation and progression systems also reduce the scope for unconscious bias to affect decision- making.
  5. Mainstream flexible working arrangements. Promoting the benefits of flexible work to men and women and making it a normal part of organisational practice can reduce the negative impact flexible and part-time work has on women's career progression.
  6. Target specific initiatives to the problem points that have been identified. These include:
    • actively identifying and supporting high-performing women
    • maintaining contact with women on career breaks and providing refresher programmes when they return.
  7. Set measurable objectives, monitor and report on progress.

Suggested reading:

Realising the Opportunity: Addressing New Zealand's leadership pipeline by attracting and retaining talented women (A review of literature on women's progress into leadership roles)

Inspiring action (A bibliography of articles on ways to improve women's career paths)

DiverseNZ Toolkit (A snapshot of resources and guidelines for senior leaders)

Male Champions of Change (A number of reports from the point of view of Australian business and public sector leaders)

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