Jeremy Heywood: ‘I’m confident the next cabinet secretary, or one after that, will be female’

Head of civil service predicts that when he stands down, a range of senior women will be in the running to succeed him


By Jim.Dunton

13 Jul 2017

Sir Jeremy Heywood has predicted that Whitehall is on the cusp of being presided over by its first female cabinet secretary, and that “a good strong range” of women candidates will be in the running to replace him.

Speaking at Civil Service Live – run by the Cabinet Office and CSW's parent company Dods – Heywood, who became cabinet secretary at the end of 2011, said it was likely that either his successor or theirs would be a woman.

Heywood, only Whitehall’s 11th cabinet secretary since the role was created in 1916, accepted that there was a gender imbalance at the top of the civil service, but insisted that the direction of travel was positive for women.


Asked how long he thought it would be before there was a female cabinet secretary, Heywood said he strongly expected that women would be in the running to succeed him.

“When I was appointed cabinet secretary I don’t think there were any women on the shortlist at all,” he said.

“All I can pledge is that when I decide to give up – or when I’m told by the prime minister to give up being cabinet secretary, there will be a good, strong range of female candidates for my job. That’s absolutely necessary.”

“I’m absolutely confident that the next cabinet secretary, or the one after that, will be female.”

Heywood said he believed “something like 50%” of all new appointments to the senior civil service over the past year had been women.

“We haven’t got to the point yet where 50% of all permanent secretaries appointed are women, but we’re well on the way to doing that. And then I think it will be a genuine meritocracy,” he said.

Heywood said that diversity within the civil service was about more than gender, and that he was keen to see more disabled staff and more staff from “a poorer background” so that the service better reflected the nation as a whole.

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