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EY: Women Still Struggle to Clinch Top Positions in Government Globally

Public sector leaders overwhelmingly acknowledge that gender diversity in senior leadership is critical to success, yet women remain significantly under-represented in senior roles, according to a new EY (No. 3 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list) “Women. Fast Forward” report, Think governments are achieving gender diversity in the workforce Think again.

A decisive 96% of survey respondents believe that diversity of thought and experience will be key to navigating public sector changes, though less than half (49%) of respondents believe their organization is effective at identifying future female leaders and just 14% say they have formal structured programs to identify and develop women for leadership roles in their organization.

George Atalla, EY Global Government & Public Sector Leader, says:

Now more than ever, governments and public sector organizations require diversity of thought and experience to enhance their analysis and understanding of complex global issues. Accelerating achievement of gender parity facilitates improved productivity, engagement and decision-making. It constitutes a vital part of the solution for the public sector to master change and to turn disruption into opportunities and growth on a global scale.”

The report identifies five disconnects that are holding back government and public sector organizations from achieving gender diversity on their senior leadership teams:

  1. The reality disconnect: Public sector leaders assume the issue is nearly solved despite little progress within their own organizations. Forty-six percent of respondents say they have already achieved gender parity on their board (defined as 30%40% women), and 15% believe they will achieve it within five years, yet data from the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2016 shows that it will take until the next century 2186, to be exact to reach gender parity in both private and public sectors.
  2. The data disconnect: Organizations don’t effectively measure how well women are progressing through the workforce and into senior leadership. Only 40% of government and public sector organizations surveyed say they have programs in place to formally measure their progress in improving gender diversity on their leadership team and less than one-quarter (23%) of organizations track the proportion of female applicants for leadership positions.
  3. The pipeline disconnect: Organizations aren’t creating pipelines for future female leaders. More than 80% of government and public sector organizations say they need to change their approach to attracting, retaining and promoting female talent, while at the same time, 71% indicated that they are already effective at attracting female talent.
  4. The perception and perspective disconnect: Men and women don’t see the issue of gender parity the same way. Almost two-thirds (64%) of women think government and public sector organizations should do more to attract, retain and promote women, compared with just over one-third (36%) of men. Additionally, although 43% of men believe that the public sector has become a more attractive career choice for women, just 23% of women share that view.
  5. The progress disconnect: Different sectors agree on the value of diversity but are making uneven progress toward gender parity. Sixty percent of public sector leaders surveyed believe they do not have sufficient diversity on their leadership teams, compared with 38% in automotive and 44% in oil and gas organizations.

Government and Public Sector Advisory Leader for Ernst & Young LLP in the US, Debra Cammer Hines, says:

The benefits of gender diversity have become increasingly clear. Organizations can only succeed and grow if the best talent is not only employed, but also supported and developed. Empowering and encouraging women to participate more fully in public administration will help governments better reflect the diversity of the societies they represent.”

EY began producing the annual Worldwide Index of Women as Public Sector Leaders in 2012 to better understand the state of affairs for women in public sector leadership roles across G20 countries. Data included in Think governments are achieving gender diversity in the workforce Think again, is based on an EY survey of 80 public sector leaders across 17 countries around the world.

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