Women now comprise 48% of executives in the Victorian Public Service, up from 35% a decade ago. A big part of the jump is quite recent, with that number rising four points in just seven months.
South Australia’s executives are also nearing parity, with last year’s figures showing 47% of public sector executives are women. A new watermark even closer to parity is expected shortly.
Women are also well-represented in the most senior leadership roles in the public sector. Four of SA’s eleven-ish departmental heads — depending on how you count departments — are women, Ingrid Haythorpe at Attorney-General’s, Cathy Taylor at Child Protection, Sandy Pitcher at Environment, Water and Natural Resources, and Vickie Kaminski at Health and Ageing.
Two of the Victoria’s seven departmental secretaries are women, Gill Callister at the Department of Education and Training, and Kym Peake at Health and Human Services. Christine Wyatt is currently acting secretary at the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, following the departure of Adam Fennessy.
Representation is lower in public sector entities — meaning public organisations outside the VPS and the police — where females make up 39% of execs, up from 31% in 2011.
In the VPS, women now form a clear majority of executives at the EO3 level, and at four of the seven departments. However the proportion of women executives varies significantly between departments, from a low of 37% at Treasury and Finance to a high of 65% at Health and Human Services.
There are 383 women executives in the public service, and 418 men, according to Victorian Public Sector Commission data dating from January 2017.
Among public sector entities, the water and land management and emergency services sectors are the furthest away from gender parity among leadership.
Performance is linked to diversity
SA’s Office for the Public Sector and IPAA SA hosted a forum earlier this year — The Second Innings: Gender Equality and Leadership Summit — to explore the progress they’ve seen on gender diversity in the public sector, and what comes next. Erma Ranieri noted that despite that progress, women are still not equally represented in executive positions in South Australia, “and are still not receiving equal pay, which is completely unacceptable.”
The push to improve on the pay and 47% figure is driven not just from an equality perspective, Ranieri says, but “because greater diversity represented within government, especially in executive and decision making roles, will mean better outcomes for South Australians.”
“That’s why we are continuing to pioneer bold, innovative initiatives such as the Reverse Mentoring Program where a female employee mentors a senior male executive.
“Organisations that are more innovative, productive and perform better financially, are those that are more diverse. This is why having gender equality within the public sector should be a priority for all Chief Executives.”
The OPS has also launched Empower sponsorship program, which will pair high-achieving women with sponsors from the executive group, and the Commissioner’s Women’s Mentoring Program — in which Ranieri will personally mentor 10 future public sector leaders.
A recent remuneration report showed that a gender pay gap persists in the Australian Public Service, though this is primarily due to women occupying lower classifications, rather than being paid less for the same work.