Simon Fraser reveals no women on shortlist for FCO perm sec role

Written by Sarah Aston on 16 July 2015 in News

Sir Simon Fraser expresses regret over lack of women on shortlist to succeed him as Foreign Office permanent secretary

No women have been shortlisted for the role of permanent secretary at the Foreign Office, Sir Simon Fraser has revealed. 
Speaking at an Institute for Government event on leadership and reform, the outgoing perm sec expressed regret that no female candidates have been chosen for final interview for his role, which he steps down from at the end of the month. 
According to a recent report by the National Audit Office, the proportion of women in senior civil service roles has “steadily” increased since 1996, and as of March 2014 38% of senior roles were occupied by women. However, of the 17 current departmental permanent secretaries, only six are female. 

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Responding to a question from IfG programme director Jill Rutter over the lack of women in “plum roles” at the Foreign Office, Fraser acknowledged the need to improve the gender balance. 

He said: “When I was interviewed for this job there were two men and two women interviewed, this time – [and] it’s a matter of great regret – there is not a woman in the shortlist for my job.”
However, he said he hoped this would not be the case in the future: “I’m pretty confident that next time there will be some very competitive women coming through within the Foreign Office, and I would hope from outside as well.”
He added: "It’s a fair challenge, I absolutely accept it. But of course you are also dealing with the legacy of what has gone before, and, since it was only in the 1970s that women in the Foreign Office didn’t have to resign when they got married, we’re starting a bit further back from the rest of Whitehall. 
“But we have got to respond to that, and you are absolutely right to be holding us to account.”

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Witheld (not verified)

Submitted on 16 July, 2015 - 17:35
It may be worth considering a 50% female quota on the shortlists for certain roles. After all, we had 100% male quota on shortlists for many many years.

L Buckley (not verified)

Submitted on 17 July, 2015 - 08:21
Trotting out the old canard about time taken to change since the 1970s..How very disingenuous and very predictable. Would have expected far more from Simon. What he is actually admitting is that things have still not changed since Pauline Neville-Jones left in the mid-1990s. And they wonder why their most capable women disappear to do greater things outside the DS after they reach a sufficient level of seniority with the contacts to do so. Shameful!

Anon (not verified)

Submitted on 17 July, 2015 - 12:54
The question is not about how many women have been chosen for interview but how many applied. If only a few women applied it cannot be expected that they will all pass the sift and go for final interview. If the women did not feel they qualified for the role then the question is why did they feel that way. Quotas don't work a 50-50 split would mean if only 2 women applied and 8 men applied it would mean at most 2 men could pass the sift which is unfair to the remaining 6 men.

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