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UK Politics

Foreign Office pays female staff less than men

Not only are women paid 10 per cent less than male colleagues, but the department is also failing its own equality and diversity targets

Female diplomats and senior women at the Foreign Office are paid 10 per cent less than their male counterparts, new figures revealed yesterday.

The Government is also missing its target on recruiting women into the department and in UK missions abroad, the research shows.

The figures follow the announcement by Defence Secretary Philip Hammond last week that women should be allowed to serve on the front line. Yet despite the attempts to achieve greater equality at the Ministry of Defence, it seems across Whitehall, however, the Foreign Office is struggling in the battle for parity between the sexes.

The new Foreign Office Diversity and Equality Report 2014 reveals that, as of last year, average female pay among the most senior ranking civil servants in the department, was £118,470 compared with average male pay at the same level of £131,360 – nearly 11 per cent more.

There is greater pay equality further down the Foreign Office staff ranks: at senior management level 2, the third highest rank, female pay is 1.35 per cent less than men – £88,471 compared with £89,669. But only at the lowest level – A1 – is there true equality between the sexes: both men and women are paid £18,156.

In 2008, the Foreign Office launched a "Fairness for All" strategy, which set a target of 28 per cent women, 5 per cent black and ethnic minority staff and 5 per cent staff with disabilities to be in senior management at the department by April 2013.

Despite progress, the numbers are still falling short: there are 25 per cent women and 4 per cent black and ethnic minority and 4 per cent with a disability.

Last year, the Foreign Office board set a new target of 24 additional female heads of mission overseas over the next four years, including ambassadors, high commissioners, consul generals and heads of diplomatic offices. The total target is for 28 per cent of female heads of mission, but the latest figures show the proportion is 25 per cent.

Guidelines from the Equality and Human Rights Commission state that any differences in pay greater than 5 per cent should be investigated – meaning that the Foreign Office could face a probe over its pay gap for its highest-ranking civil servants.

The Foreign Office report also reveals the difference in black and minority ethnic representation at difference pay grades in the department. At the lowest level, A1, there are 20 per cent BME staff, and at the next grade up representation rises to 31 per cent. But among more senior ranks, ethnic minority representation declines, and at senior management level there are only 4 per cent non-white members of staff.