Canada tops gender equality ranking – but Australia gaining fast

By on 05/09/2017 | Updated on 25/09/2020
You can download the report or compare the data at

Canada has topped a league table ranking G20 countries by the proportion of women amongst their senior civil servants, with a 46.4% figure that puts it 3.3 points ahead of second-placed Australia. However, Australia’s 3.2 point growth over the year puts it on course to overtake Canada, which added just 0.3 points over the year. South Africa comes in third, with 41.1%.

The figures were published today in Global Government Forum’s Women Leaders Index: an annual ranking, produced with the support of professional services firm EY, that also sets out the proportion of women among nations’ cabinet ministers, national parliamentarians, and business leaders, and details the proportion of women amongst the top leadership teams of EU nations.

Below South Africa in the G20 rankings stand the UK (40.1%), Brazil (37.8%) and the USA (34.4%) – leaving the top six places unchanged since last year. This high-performing group has consistently shown slow growth from a high baseline since the Index was first published in 2013, but there have been major changes amongst the middle group of G20 nations: seven countries typified since 2013 by fast progress from a low base.

France has leapt five places in this year’s Index to stand in joint 7th place with a figure of 34% – equalling Mexico, which itself climbed three places up the table.

A bottom group of seven countries is characterised by weak progress from a low base, and this year’s Index reveals that Turkey is consistently going backwards: its figure has fallen every year from the 13.6% it achieved in 2013, and now stands at just 8.8%.

Alongside the data, the Women Leaders Index contains interviews, case studies and analysis, and is supported by an online tool allowing visitors to compare countries over time and with one another. Interviewees include the heads of the civil service in Australia and Canada, the civil service HR chiefs of Ireland, Sweden and Finland, and the UK’s permanent secretary ‘gender champion’.

Kevin Sorkin, Global Government Forum’s managing director, commented: “Since we first published the Women Leaders Index 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 41%. The middle-ranking six countries have seen their average score climb from 18% to 31%.

“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.”

The online tool is available at:

Full findings, interviews, case studies and analysis can be found in the Women’s Leaders Index report 2016-17

See also our Women Leaders Index feature: Glass ceiling beginning to crack in upper echelons of many countries’ civil services

About Matt Ross

Matt is Global Government Forum's Contributing Editor, providing direction and support on topics, products and audience interests across GGF’s editorial, events and research operations. He has been a journalist and editor since 1995, beginning in motoring and travel journalism – and combining the two in a 30-month, 30-country 4x4 expedition funded by magazine photo-journalism. Between 2002 and 2008 he was Features Editor of Haymarket news magazine Regeneration & Renewal, covering urban regeneration, economic growth and community development; and from 2008 to 2014 he was the Editor of UK magazine and website Civil Service World, then Editorial Director for Public Sector – both at political publishing house Dods. He has also worked as Director of Communications at think tank the Institute for Government.

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