Sharon White says civil service slipping on equality for women

Written by Samera Owusu Tutu on 13 October 2014 in News

The civil service has not gone far enough in appointing women to senior positions, the Treasury’s second permanent secretary Sharon White told a conference audience last month.

Speaking to an audience dominated by female civil servants at the ‘Women into Leadership’ event, White commended the pockets of the civil service where the women had reached senior positions: “Some departments have made huge amounts of progress,” she said.
However, in answer to a question from the audience about her views on gender equality at the department level, White noted that “in one or two of the departments I've worked in, I've had really good female representation,” but added: “Now we're back to the situation we had in the ‘90s where you roll in your female HR director, the HR slot, and you roll them out again.”
White did acknowledge that the civil service does better than the private sector: “Looking at the progress that departments have made makes me very grateful that we can take the extra step.” However, she said that the civil service is still falling short when it comes to getting women into the most senior positions: “Personally I still feel there are too few women right at the very top.”

The Treasury official stressed that the civil service needs to be strategic to ensure the next five years saw more women in senior positions: “We need to put the structure and the systems and the leadership [in place] now so that in five years' time we're not still having this conversation.”


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