A study of gender in senior civil service positions in Ireland

December 12, 2017 | ESRI Research Series

Authors: Helen Russell , Emer Smyth , Selina McCoy , Raffaele Grotti , Dorothy Watson , Oona Kenny


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.

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