International Women’s Day: Antonia Romeo on how DIT is doing things differently to close the civil service gender gap

Written by Antonia Romeo on 8 March 2018 in Opinion

The creation of the Department for International Trade as a new department has allowed us to look afresh at how to put inclusion at the heart of our work

Photos by Louise Haywood-Schiefer

International Women’s Day is always an important moment to reflect, but in the UK it feels particularly pertinent this year. One hundred years ago women were given the right to vote; real progress has been made over the last century, and yet there is so much more to achieve.

In the civil service the gender pay gap narrowed last year from 13.6% to 12.7%. In my own department it is 3.6%. This is good progress, but we all want to do more to ensure women are able to reach the highest levels in the civil service, and reducing the gender gap is a crucial indicator of our success in achieving this.

The right expertise and experience

The majority of DIT’s more than 3,500 staff are women. As a new department, with an exciting new agenda securing Britain's trading future, we have the opportunity to do things differently. We are putting people at the heart of our organisation, creating a team that is up to the task of promoting UK exports and inward investment and delivering our first independent trade policy in more than 40 years.

Building the most engaged, diverse, and inclusive department in Whitehall

My vision for the Department for International Trade (DIT) is to be one of the most engaged, diverse, and inclusive departments in Whitehall, in a civil service with an ambition to be the most inclusive employer in the country. A place where all aspects of diversity are embraced and a culture of inclusivity allows everyone to be themselves and produce their best work. This is a crucial part of what we call the ‘DIT Spirit’: expert, enterprising, engaged and inclusive.

As part of this, we have established DIT Women – a network of volunteers and senior sponsors from across the department who are implementing an action plan to turn us into a Whitehall leader on gender equality. They are transforming our culture, ensuring that no one falls into a “transition black hole” (after maternity leave, for example) and removing barriers to broaden the pool of talent that we can draw on and deploy on the government's priorities of trade and investment.

A year of celebration and a future we are ready for

Today we are also celebrating the Suffrage Centenary. In DIT London, and across our network of 177 posts in 108 countries and four UK regions, we will be celebrating, educating, and participating in a programme of activity pressing for progress in gender equality.

This momentum at DIT will continue to grow as we build an international economic department where diversity and inclusivity are more than just buzzwords – they are inherent to the way we go about our daily work, and to make Britain, in the words of the prime minister, "a modern, outward-looking, tolerant" global trading nation.



About the author

Antonia Romeo is the permanent secretary at the Department for International Trade

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