Whitehall set to remain male bastion: Women look for political advance but Civil Service prospects remain gloomy

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The Independent Online
IT COULD take decades for women to achieve a satisfactory level of representation in the most senior ranks of the Civil Service, a Commons select committee has been told.

The Association of First Division Civil Servants (FDA) has told a Treasury and Civil Service sub-committee investigation into Civil Service management that the latest figures show a small but noticeable improvement in the number of women in the most senior Whitehall grades.

But while they now account for 8.6 per cent of senior-grade employees, an increase of one percentage point since last July, they make up more than half of the total Civil Service workforce.

In the highest grade, there are two women - Valerie Strachan at Customs and Excise, and Barbara Mills, Director of Public Prosecutions - working alongside 33 men at permanent secretary level.

There are just nine women in the 106-strong Grade 2 section and 41 out of 464 employees at Grade 3.

The FDA said: 'There is little significant change in the position of women between Grades 2 and 3. It is likely to be many years, or decades, before women achieve a satisfactory level of representation in the most senior ranks.'

The Department of the Environment had the highest number of women in senior posts, with eight. The Home Office had six and the Department of Health, five. The worst performers were the Inland Revenue, with no women in the 26 most senior posts, and Defence, with just one out of 67. Women fared worst in departments dealing with economic, industrial or technical issues.

'The largest concentrations of women occur in the departments dealing with social issues,' the FDA said. 'This may reflect a perception of these as 'feminine' issues or may reflect the fact that women are heavily represented in the delivery of social and health services.'

But it added: 'The exception to this rule appears to be the Department for Education where . . . women hold none of the 17 senior posts.'