Women in Public Sector/Civil Service

The public sector in Ireland, which has traditionally been a key employer of women, has made strong efforts to promote equal opportunities and to address gender imbalance in decision making. Despite this increased focus, figures show that across the EU, with Ireland no exception, the structure is largely pyramidal with relatively few women compared to men rising to senior positions.

In the Civil Service, significant progress has been made in addressing gaps between male and female participation at different grade levels. In 2014, women account for 43 per cent of Assistant Principal Officers and for 35 per cent of Principal Officers. However, at the most senior grades; women represent only 25 per cent and 24 per cent at Deputy/Assistant Secretary General level and at Secretary General level respectively.

Women now represent 36 per cent of all appointments to State Boards, although they are less well represented on the economically focused State Boards and feature more prominently on the so-called female dominated sectors, such as in education, health and social services focused State Boards.

However, it must be said that there are some positive examples of female appointments to decision making positions traditionally held by men, particularly in the Justice area. At present, three of the ten Irish Supreme Court Judges are women; bringing women’s representation in the Supreme Court to 30 per cent. For the first time in the history of the State, we also have a female Chief Justice, Attorney General, Director of Public Prosecutions and Chief State Solicitor. The Commissioner of An Garda Síochána is also female.

On 30th October 2014 the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and the Taoiseach launched the Civil Service Renewal Plan. This ambitious plan incorporates a vision and a three year action plan to renew the Irish Civil Service.

The Civil Service Renewal Plan aims, inter alia, to maximise the performance and potential of all employees and organisations. In order to that, the Plan will be supported by a renewed focus on achieving greater equality of opportunity, diversity, and gender equality across the workforce to build a Civil Service that more closely reflects the society. This means significantly changing how the staff is selected and developed in order to set new expectations about the levels of excepted and accepted performance.

The Renewal Plan also aims to improve gender balance at each level by reviewing supports and policies to ensure these are impactful and measurable.

The Public Appointments Service is the centralised provider of recruitment, assessment and selection services for the Civil Service. PAS also provides recruitment and consultancy services to local authorities, the Health Service Executive, Garda Síochana and other public bodies.

A number of initiatives to address women underrepresentation in the public sector are taking place, with generous EU Progress funding.