Women leaders: how to achieve gender parity in public and civil services around the world

Graphic by Jack Aldane
January 19, 2023

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It is widely accepted that having public and civil service workforces that resemble the populations they serve leads to better policies and better outcomes for citizens. And yet Global Government Forum’s latest Women Leaders Index found that the mean proportion of women in top civil service jobs across G20 nations is less than 30%. 

EU and OECD countries fare better overall, and many countries have made great progress towards gender parity as a result of concerted efforts to make positive change – but if women’s voices are to equal men’s in the leadership ranks of government departments around the world, there is much more work to be done.

This webinar ran through the key findings of the Women Leaders Index, and provide personal insights from female leaders in government on how they got to where they are today, the challenges they faced as they climbed the career ladder, and what more they believe needs to be done to support women into top roles.

Watch this webinar to find out:

  • Why diversity and inclusion in government is so important
  • What civil and public services are doing to improve representation of women in their highest ranks
  • What barriers exist to greater female representation in senior public service leadership and how they can be overcome


Sarah Paquet, Director and Chief Executive Officer, FINTRAC, Canada

Sarah Paquet was appointed Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) on November 18, 2020. As the head of Canada’s financial intelligence unit and anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing regulator, she is responsible for ensuring the Centre facilitates the detection, prevention and deterrence of money laundering, terrorist activity financing and threats to the security of Canada. In addition to leading FINTRAC, Ms. Paquet is the Chair of the Egmont Information Exchange Working Group, which is focused on improving information sharing among the world’s financial intelligence units.

Before joining FINTRAC, Ms. Paquet held numerous leadership positions across the federal public service over the past 20 years. From 2018 to 2020, she served as the first Executive Vice-President at Shared Services Canada, providing leadership to the organization as it modernized the Government of Canada enterprise IT infrastructure and enabled digital services to Canadians.

Ms. Paquet attended the University of Ottawa, earning her Civil Law degree in 1993 and her Common Law degree in 2001. She serves as the Deputy Minister Champion for the University Ottawa and is focused on strengthening the relationship between the University and the Government of Canada, as well as facilitating student recruitment and enhancing student mental health. In 2021, Ms. Paquet received the Award for Commitment to the University, recognizing her as an outstanding alumna who has distinguished herself through her philanthropic activities for the University. Ms. Paquet is also a strong advocate for women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and an inspiring speaker on the topics of leadership, innovation and inclusion. In 2020, she was named one of Canada’s most powerful women by the Women’s Executive Network (WXN), receiving the CIBC Executive Leaders distinction. In the same year, she also received the Public Sector Champion-Government award from Women in Communications and Technology (WCT), which recognizes those who are committed to gender diversity in Canada’s digital industries.

Zukiswa Mqolomba, National Commissioner (Deputy Chairperson), Public Service Commission, South Africa

Zukiswa Mqolomba is a senior Public Sector Executive with roots deeply embedded in strategy, economics, poverty and public policy work. She is a Mandela Rhodes Scholar and Chevening scholar. She has won international, continental and domestic awards for her leadership in public policy and governance. For instance, she has been awarded the Africa Youth Awards 2021, and Africa3535 leadership laureat award for Governance. She has also won the Humphrey Leadership award from the United States also for her policy contribution in the Public sector, as well as 2 time winner of the Mail&Guardian top 200 leaders award, running in the top 10 for Politics and Government. She is also a recipient of the Vice-chancellor’s award, University of Cape Town. She has a keen interest in finding solutions to public sector challenges, as well as public service innovations and transformations. She’s done research and policy work on public sector innovation and transformation. Her research work includes conducting research on the developmental state and the institutional architecture pertaining to building it. She has done some work on building meritocratic states, including recruitment in the public service, as well as strategies on how to deal with corruption and to professionalise the public service. She’s also done work on the National Development Plan and how to build a professionalised and transformed public service. She has recently been appointed by the President of the Republic of SA to be a National Commissioner (Deputy Chairperson) for the Public Service Commission of South Africa.

Mia Hunt, Editor, Global Government Forum

Mia has been Editor of globalgovernmentforum.com since 2019. She 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.

Webinar chair: Siobhan Benita, former UK senior civil servant

Siobhan Benita was a senior civil servant with over 15 years’ Whitehall experience. She worked in many of the major delivery departments, including Transport, Environment, Health and Local Government. She also had senior roles at the heart of Government in the Cabinet Office and HM Treasury, including supporting the then Cabinet Secretary, Lord O’Donnell to lead work on Civil Service reform and strategy. Siobhan left the Civil Service to run as an independent candidate in the Mayor of London election. She subsequently joined her alma mater, Warwick University as Chief Strategy Officer of Warwick in London and Co-Director of the Warwick Policy Lab.