ESRI Research Series

A study of gender in senior civil service positions in Ireland

This report has been peer reviewed prior to publication. The authors are solely responsible for the content and the views expressed.

December 12, 2017
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Women make up the majority of those employed in the civil service but are underrepresented at the most senior grades, where key policy and operational decisions are taken. Action 8 of the Civil Service Renewal Plan commits to improving gender balance at each level, including senior grades. The present study was commissioned by a high-level steering group set up to oversee implementation of this action. It draws on a combination of administrative data, reanalysis of the Civil Service Employee Engagement Survey conducted in 2015, and in-depth work history interviews with 50 senior civil servants across four departments. In addition, in-depth interviews were conducted with staff involved in recruitment and promotion within the public service. This rich combination of data yields new insights into the processes shaping gender differences in representation at the most senior grades of the civil service and thus provides a strong evidence base to inform future policy and practice.