Canada tops civil service gender parity rankings, while USA slips down

By on 09/03/2020 | Updated on 04/07/2023

Canada has topped a league table ranking G20 countries by the proportion of women amongst their senior civil servants, with a 48.1% figure putting it 1.8 points ahead of second-placed Australia. The UK comes third, with 44.7% representation, followed by South Africa and Brazil respectively.

The figures were published today in Global Government Forum’s Women Leaders Index: a ranking that also sets out the proportion of women among nations’ cabinet ministers, national parliamentarians and business leaders, and details the proportion of women in the top civil service leadership teams of EU and OECD countries.

Overall, at 27.7% the G20 average is 1.4 percentage points up on our last Women Leaders Index – published in 2017 – and 8 points up since the first Index was published in 2013. But the mean for the lowest ranking seven countries – including China, Turkey, South Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia – has risen just 2.7 points over that period, to 10.2%.

While most countries have made progress since 2017 – the proportion of women in the top two tiers of Italy’s civil service, for example, has leapt by 6.2 points over the period – the US has seen a decline in the percentage of women in leadership positions, falling back from sixth to ninth place in the ranking.

Alongside the data, the Women Leaders Index presents both detailed analysis of progress across the groups, and case studies in which civil service leaders from top-performing countries discuss the keys to success. Interviewees include Catherine Blewett, Canada’s deputy clerk of the Privy Council and associate secretary to the Cabinet; Stephanie Foster, deputy secretary, governance, at Australia’s Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet; and Peter Hughes, the state services commissioner of New Zealand. Read the full report on our dedicated website.

Kevin Sorkin, Global Government Forum’s managing director, commented: “Since the first Women Leaders Index was published in 2013, the six top performers in the G20 have inched ever closer towards gender parity amongst senior civil servants – with their mean score rising from 36% to 42.7%. The middle-ranking seven countries have made even faster progress, with their average score climbing from 18.3% to 32.4%.

“As our interviews reveal, this kind of progress produces big rewards in terms of better decision-making, bigger talent pools and, ultimately, stronger public service delivery for the public. But there is more work to do: we hope that publishing this data will help senior officials both to make the case for change, and to identify the best ways to make progress.”

Visit to read the full report.

About Mia Hunt

Mia is a journalist and editor with a background in covering commercial property, having been market reports and supplements editor at trade title Property Week and deputy editor of Shopping Centre magazine, now known as Retail Destination. She has also undertaken freelance work for several publications including the preview magazine of international trade show, MAPIC, and TES Global (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) and has produced a white paper on energy efficiency in business for E.ON. Between 2014 and 2016, she was a member of the Revo Customer Experience Committee and an ACE Awards judge. Mia graduated from Kingston University with a first-class degree in journalism and was part of the team that produced The River newspaper, which won Publication of the Year at the Guardian Student Media Awards in 2010.

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