A long road ahead for women public sector leaders in the G20

London, 30 April 2013

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With one billion women expected to join the workforce over the next decade, women are the next big emerging market. However, according to the EY Worldwide Index of Women as Public Sector Leaders, while women account for around 48% of the overall public sector workforce they still represent less than 20% of public sector leadership across the G20.

Only four countries in the G20 have a third or more women in leadership roles across the public sector. Canada ranked first place in the Index with 45% women leaders, followed by Australia (37%), the UK (35%) and South Africa (33%).

Uschi Schreiber, Global Government and Public Sector Leader for EY comments, “In our globalizing world, diversity is seen not only as an ambition but crucial to delivering more effective government and increased economic competitiveness. But while diverse teams are proven to stimulate innovation and new ways of problem solving, there is an increasing acknowledgment that much work remains to be done before governments and business become truly representative of the societies in which they operate and serve.”

A question of participation
While ratios of women represented in the public sector overall are generally higher in developed markets, the proportion of these women in leadership roles varies widely across developed and emerging markets.

Over half of Germany’s public sector is represented by women (52%) but only 14.5% of these women are leaders. Similarly in Japan, women make up 42% of the public sector but only 2.5% women leaders. Russia has the highest number of women represented across the public sector (71%) with 13% in leadership roles.

In Brazil, less than half (47.6%) of public sector employees are women, yet a high ratio of 32.1% of these women are in leadership. Since 2010, Brazil has had a female president, Dilma Rousseff, and ten of her thirty-nine ministers are women, a record for Brazil.

Uschi explains “Shifting demographics, urbanization and climate change, as well as the lingering effects of the financial crisis, demand great leaders at the decision-making table. Unleashing the talent of women can bring powerful positive change and increases the likelihood of better outcomes for us all.”

Scaling the task ahead: towards a greater equality
Despite some more encouraging recent data, economic instability and cuts in public sector jobs in many of the G20 markets are predicted to result in a worsening in the labour market situation and potentially a step back for women in the public sector.

In the UK, it is estimated that 710,000 public sector jobs will be lost by 2017, with twice as many women losing their jobs than men. In some European countries, cutbacks have focused on female dominated sectors such as education, health and social work, making the situation even harder for women to seek employment and advance to leadership positions. In Italy, 19,700 women’s jobs have been already been cut and 87,000 more are expected in the education sector during the coming years. Similarly in the US, the public sector lost 74,000 jobs overall in the last year and 63,000 (85%) of those were women’s jobs.

Uschi concludes, “Most governments are aware of the benefits of promoting a more balanced gender mix in their leadership ranks and are actively advancing policies to address the gender deficit. Unfortunately, as in other sectors, the gender distribution across leadership roles in government is not representative of the number of women in the community and in higher education. Such results underline the scale of the task ahead.”

“There are four streams of action which, when taken together, seem to lead to greater representation of women in leadership roles. Namely, legislation to address visible barriers, cultural transformation to address invisible barriers, an increase in role models and women leadership, and action for future women Public Sector leaders.”

Notes to Editors
Research for the first G20 Index report was carried out throughout September and October 2012 by government research specialists Civil Service World Research, part of Dods. The Worldwide Index of Women as Public Leaders Report will form part of a series of regular reports designed to track progress and change in governments, promoting gender equality among the leadership of the public service across the globe.

Whereas we were unable to find any other study looking specifically at women in leadership positions across the public sector, there are figures presented in wider reports such as, for example, the World Economic Forum’s “Gender Gap” reports. Data updates are also not made consistently, and the time series vary significantly. The Index is therefore based on data compiled from official reports and government sources: a list of sources used to compile the report is available at the end. Every effort has been made to ensure that the figures are as comparable as possible. As no information for 2011 and 2012 has been published by some countries, we have used the most recent information available.

The majority of the figures used are taken from data published within the last year, with the exceptions of Russia (the most relevant data published is from 2005), Indonesia (2008) and South Africa (2009).

Availability of data for Russia and China was problematic, the latter presenting challenges in the definition of “public sector.” We have, however, used the most relevant official data available for “high level experts and researchers enjoying government subsidies.” For Germany, 2012 data was only available for the top two tiers of the civil service, showing 13% of women in these groups. We have used more representative data from 2005, which is for the top five tiers at 14.5%. We have researched the structure of each government and makeup of its administrative bodies to be able to take variation into account and to ensure that comparable groups are used. For instance, the politically appointed officials within the US government have not been included as they do not fit our definition of public sector leaders: instead we have used the Senior Executive Service.

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