Antonia Romeo takes up post in trade department

Romeo brings the number of women leading Whitehall departments to four, as analysis shows the government's varied progress on gender diversity

By Suzannah.Brecknell

27 Mar 2017

Antonia Romeo today joins the Department for International Trade as permanent secretary, bringing the number of women heading Whitehall departments to four.

Romeo will continue in her current role as as consul-general in New York until July. There are now ten women holding permanent secretary grade posts in the civil service, which includes Leslie Evans and Shan Morgan heading up the Scottish and Welsh governments, and Dame Sally Davies the chief medical officer. 

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Government’s chief people officer Rupert McNeil has written that achieving complete gender balance across the civil service is a “critical priority for the organisation”. Currently, women make up 54% of the civil service overall, but are under-represented in senior grades. Just 40% of the senior civil service are women, and at the very top – perm sec grade – just a quarter are women.

Analysis published by the Institute for Government as Romeo takes up her post shows that while the civil service overall is making steady progress towards complete gender balance, the picture at a departmental level is mixed.

At the Home Office, 34.8% of senior civil servants are women, a figure which has fallen slightly since 2010, when 36.4% were women. The proportion of women across all grades in the Home Office has also fallen slightly, from 55% in 2010 to 52% in 2013, meaning the gap between SCC and workforce has remained broadly constant.

The Department for Work and Pensions has also failed to close the gap between representation across all grades and in the senior civil service. Representation of women in the senior posts at the DWP has gone up by just 0.2 percentage points, but the proportion of women overall rose by nearly 2 percentage points. This means that the department also has the largest gap to close, with women making up 68% of their overall headcount, but just 38% of the senior civil service.

The departments with the lowest proportion of senior women are the Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence, where women make up 28% and 29% of the SCS respectively.

In contrast at the Department for Culture Media and Sport – one of the four departments left by women – the senior civil service is 60% female.

IN a blog last year, Sir Jeremy Heywood highlighted that nearly half (45%) of all new appointments into the senior civil service had gone to women in the previous year.

“So I am very confident that we are now building a deep and rich pipeline of outstanding senior women who will be the future leaders of the civil service,” he wrote.

The latest intake of Fast Streamers also points to a better gender balance in the future. In 2015, the scheme, which forms an important pipeline future senior civil servants, took in 50% women.

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