Worldwide Index of Women as Public Sector Leaders: New E&Y Report

April 30, 2013 1:19 pm

LONDON, 29 APRIL 2013 – With one billion women expected to join the workforce over the next decade, women are rightly seen by many commentators as the next big emerging market. However, according to the Ernst & Young Worldwide Index of Women as Public Sector Leaders, although women account for around 48% of the overall public sector workforce they represent less than 20% of public sector leadership across the G20.

Only four countries in the G20 have a third or more women in leadership roles across the public sector. Canada ranked first place in the Index with 45% women leaders, followed by Australia (37%), the UK (35%) and South Africa (33%).

Uschi Schreiber, EY


Uschi Schreiber, Global Government and Public Sector Leader for Ernst & Young comments, “In our globalizing world, diversity is seen not only as an ambition but crucial to delivering more effective government and increased economic competitiveness. But while diverse teams are proven to stimulate innovation and new ways of problem solving, there is an increasing acknowledgment that much work remains to be done before governments and business become truly representative of the societies in which they operate and serve.”

A question of participation

While ratios of women represented in the public sector overall are generally higher in developed markets, the ratios of women in leadership roles varies widely across developed and emerging markets.

Over half of Germany’s public sector is represented by women (52%) but only 15% women leaders. Similarly in Japan, women make up 42% of the public sector but only 3% women leaders. Russia has the highest number of women represented across the public sector (71%) with 13% women in leadership roles.

In Brazil, less than half (48%) of public sector employees are women, yet a high ratio of 32% women in leadership. Since 2010, Brazil has had a female president, Dilma Rousseff, and ten of her thirty-nine ministers are women, a record for Brazil.

Uschi explains “Governments around the world are facing up to a rapidly changing world. Shifting demographics, urbanization and climate change, as well as the lingering effects of the financial crisis, demand great leaders at the decision-making table. Unleashing the talent of women can bring powerful positive change and increases the likelihood of better outcomes for us all.”

Scaling the task ahead: towards a greater equality

Despite some more encouraging recent data, economic instability and cuts in public sector jobs in many of the G20 markets are predicted to result in a worsening in the labour market situation and potentially a step back for women in the public sector.

In the UK, it is estimated that 710,000 public sector jobs will be lost by 2017, with twice as many women losing their jobs than men. In some other European countries, cutbacks have focused on female dominated sectors such as education, health and social work, making the situation even harder for women to seek employment and advance to leadership positions. In Italy for example, 19,700 women’s jobs have been already been cut while 87,000 more are expected to be lost in the education sector alone in the near future. Similarly in the US, the public sector lost 74,000 jobs overall in the last year and 63,000 (85%) of those were women’s jobs.

Uschi concludes, “Most governments are aware of the benefits of promoting a more balanced gender mix in their leadership ranks and are actively advancing policies to address the gender deficit. Unfortunately, as in other sectors, the gender distribution across leadership roles in government is not representative of the number of women in the community and in higher education. Such results underline the scale of the task ahead.”

“There are four streams of action which, when taken together, seem to lead to greater representation of women in leadership roles. Namely, legislation to address visible barriers, cultural transformation to address invisible barriers, an increase in role models and women leadership, and action for future women public sector leaders.”

Click here for the full report.

For more on global diversity, see DiversityInc’s 2013 Global Diversity Research.