The proportion of Senior Civil Service (SCS) posts occupied by women has topped 40% for the first time, new figures show.
While women have long made up more than half of the overall civil service workforce, the organisation has faced a tougher challenge in ensuring that women are properly represented in the SCS.
Less than a third of SCS jobs were occupied by women in 2008, when the Office for National Statistics began recording data in a comparable format. But the latest figures from the ONS show that women now make up 40.1% of the SCS, a rise of more than 8% on 2008 levels and the highest proportion yet recorded by the stats body.
Civil service has lost "next generation" of female leaders – ex-Home Office chief Helen Ghosh
Civil service diversity: how an award-winning women's group took on the gender gap – and brought men along too
There are still too few women at the top of Whitehall – here's what the Home Office is doing to change that
The statistics show that there was a 1.2% year-on-year rise in the proportion of SCS jobs filled by women between 2015 to 2016, continuing a long-term trend of steadily increasing female representation in Whitehall's top tier.
There has also been a similar rise in female representation at the grades below Senior Civil Service level – grades 6 and 7 – where women now make up 44.8% of the workforce. That figure is up from 38.1% in 2008.
Despite the ongoing rise in female representation in the SCS, women continue to be dramatically under-represented at the very top of Whitehall. Just eight of the civil service's current permanent secretary-level roles are occupied by women, a far cry from the 50/50 gender balance briefly achieved in 2011.
That figure has prompted Labour to call for positive discrimination in perm sec jobs, while the Cabinet Office has said it is open to revealing the gender breakdown of those who made it to interview for the civil service's top posts.
A 2014 report by the Hay Group consultancy – which prompted the launch of the Cabinet Office's "Talent Action Plan" diversity programme – found that some women were put off by what they described the "bear-pit" and "macho" culture of the SCS.
Image courtesy: The Office for National Statistics