Making hybrid working work for all, AI job ‘apocalypse’ could hit women hardest, and more

By on 04/04/2024 | Updated on 04/04/2024
Image: Israel Andrade on Unsplash

Welcome to the latest edition of the Global Government Women’s Network newsletter, rounding up the public policy and government workforce news from the last month. 

In this issue, we look back at the Innovation 2024 conference and ahead to this month’s GovernmentDX event in Washington, D.C.

We also look at how AI could impact women’s jobs, rollbacks on government diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, and more.

Thanks for reading, and please share your thoughts and news stories with me at [email protected]

Sarah Wray
Editor
Global Government Forum

In this edition:

  • Making hybrid working work for all
  • Join senior leaders from across the US federal government at GovernmentDX
  • UK government urged to prevent AI job ‘apocalypse’ that could hit women hardest
  • US House Office of Diversity and Inclusion disbanded
  • Higher percentage of women appointed to top roles in Ireland’s civil service
  • Opposition MP pledges to reserve 50% of Indian government jobs for women
  • Webinar: How to eliminate the gender pay gap in civil and public services

Making hybrid working work for all

A session at the recent Global Government Forum Innovation 2024 conference looked at how government departments are adapting to the post-pandemic hybrid working trend.

Hybrid working and women: The session looked at the topic from a range of angles but was held in partnership with the Global Government Women’s Network. Research last year from consultancy Public First found that hybrid working has encouraged large numbers of professional women to move to full-time work. Separate research in February from the Unison union revealed that almost a third of women working in the UK public sector who have asked to work flexibly – including hybrid working – have had requests denied.

Line manager role: Carol Bernard, executive director, line management capability, Government People Group, UK Cabinet Office, highlighted that effective line managers can boost productivity in organisations by 20%. She also noted that civil service line managers typically have a lot of questions about managing hybrid workers effectively, such as how to make sure everyone gets visibility, how to communicate remotely, and the need to support the careers of people who work part-time or have caring responsibilities. These are some of the issues that will be addressed in a new line management capability programme that Bernard is rolling out to set consistent standards and support for line managers across the civil service.

Family benefits: Public sector hybrid working has been something of a contentious issue in Canada but Lauren Hunter, director of talent policy and platforms at the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, said she believes flexibility is good for recruitment and public service organisations. For example, she said it can be beneficial for introverted and neurodiverse people who may find five days a week in the office too exhausting. She also observed significant benefits for families, including more balance in men taking on family roles and responsibilities.

Come as you are: Hunter also raised an interesting area where hybrid working has an impact – what people wear. When remote working during the pandemic, people tended to eschew expensive suits and on screen it was less easy to tell who was senior. More relationships started to form “on the basis of ideas than on the basis of hierarchy”, Hunter said. She said this “come as you are” mentality is now evident regardless of where people work and “that’s a gift from the hybrid workforce”.

New tools: Tricia Nelson, managing partner, EY UK and Ireland People Advisory Services, noted that hybrid work offers many people more choice but there can be a disconnect between what employees want and what leaders want. Offices can still act as a “magnet” for people to come together and collaborate, she said. This may require new workforce logistics, tech such as booking apps and even changing the layout of working spaces.

Join senior leaders from across the US federal government at GovernmentDX

18 and 19 April 2024, Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, Washington, D.C.

Hot on the heels of Innovation, Global Government Forum is bringing public servants from across the United States federal government and beyond together in Washington D.C. to share insight on how to use technology to improve the digital experience of interacting with government.

This new event – GovernmentDX – will feature speakers from the White House, and from US federal government departments and agencies including the Department of State, General Services Administration, United States Digital Service, and the Office of Personnel and Management. Plus, international speakers from Canada, Estonia, Germany, Singapore and the United Kingdom will share their best practices in areas such as delivering a better constituent experience; optimising government information for the search engine age; and how to get federal technology right for a modern government.

Speakers include: Clare Martorana, federal chief information officer; Betsy Beaumon
chief transformation officer, Social Security Administration; Christine Bellamy, director, GOV.UK, Government Digital Service, Cabinet Office; and Jen Easterly, director, US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

Find out more about the conference here.

Government urged to prevent AI job ‘apocalypse’ that could hit women hardest

Almost 8 million UK jobs could be lost to AI with no net economic gains in a worst-case scenario, a recent report from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) warned.

Disruption in waves: IPPR analysis of 22,000 tasks in the UK economy, covering every type of job, finds that 11% of tasks done by workers are already exposed to the first wave of generative AI adoption. Tasks such as database management, scheduling and inventory management are most at risk today. However, this could increase to AI doing 59% of tasks in the second wave, expanding to non-routine cognitive tasks and higher-earning jobs.

Women bearing the brunt: Back-office, entry level and part-time jobs are at the highest risk of being disrupted during the first wave. These include secretarial, customer service and administrative roles. Women are more likely to be in such jobs, which means they will be among the most affected, the report says. 

Technology isn’t destiny: The IPPR also modelled a best-case scenario and a middle-ground state. In the best-case scenario jobs would be augmented rather than displaced by AI, leading to an economic boost of 13% to GDP, equal to around £306bn per year.

Strategy needed: The IPPR recommends that the government develops a job-centric industrial strategy for AI that includes support for green jobs, which are less exposed to automation; fiscal policy measures, such as tax incentives or subsidies to encourage job augmentation over full displacement; and regulatory change to ensure human responsibility in key areas such as health.

US House Office of Diversity and Inclusion disbanded

The US House Office of Diversity and Inclusion was closed as part of a recently passed government spending bill.  The office was established in March 2020 with a mission of creating a congressional workforce that reflected the makeup of the nation. It is being replaced by the Office of Talent Management under the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer.

More sad than mad: In a LinkedIn post, Sesha Joi Moon, director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, said: “I’ve been asked if I’m mad about what happened to the US House Office of Diversity and Inclusion at the United States Congress and the answer is that I’m more so sad – the dissolution of the country’s top office to ensure a representative workforce in the world’s most deliberative body that legislates our lives is a sad day for America.” She added that research shows that six out of ten citizens agree that a representative society makes the United States of America a better place to live.

Pushback: Members of the Congressional Black Associates, the Congressional Asian Pacific American Staff Association, the Congressional Hispanic Staff Association and the Senate Black Legislative Staff Caucus released a joint statement saying they were “disheartened” by the loss of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. “Unfortunately, the politicisation of diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives has led to those resources being stripped away from Capitol Hill staff despite their impact,” the statement said.

Across the pond: Equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) measures have also come under scrutiny in the UK. A report from the independent Inclusion at Work Panel, appointed by the business and trade secretary and minister for women and equalities, Kemi Badenoch, concluded that “employers aren’t properly equipped to implement EDI policies that are based on evidence, and are resorting to ineffective, polarising practices”. The panel spoke to more than 100 people in 55 organisations and reviewed the latest research into how employers make decisions about diversity and inclusion policies and practices.

Input vs impact: Badenoch said that the UK employs almost twice as many EDI workers per head than any other country and that EDI jobs in our public services are “costing the taxpayer at least half a billion pounds a year”. She said that despite this, the new report shows that many popular EDI practices – such as diversity training – “have little to no tangible impact in increasing diversity or reducing prejudice”.

Upshot: The panel, which included private and public sector leaders, released a framework for employers and set out recommendations for the government. The government said it is considering introducing “a presumption against external EDI spending and increasing ministerial scrutiny of EDI spending, whilst streamlining EDI training and HR processes, with a view to getting value for the taxpayer”.

Higher percentage of women appointed to top roles in Ireland’s civil service

The latest report from Ireland’s Top Level Appointments Committee (TLAC)  reveals that, in the three years to the end of 2022, the committee recommended more women for appointment to senior positions than men – even though more men than women had applied for posts.

Objective: The committee makes recommendations to ministers on candidates for the most senior positions in the civil service. Its role is to support the government objective “that the recruitment and selection process for the most senior civil service positions is accessible to the widest pool of qualified candidates from all sectors”.

By the numbers: The report says that in 2022, of the 486 eligible applications, 64% were from men and 36% from women. However, of the 78 candidates put forward for final interview, the gender balance was almost equal: 51% of candidates were male and 49% were female.

Ultimately, of the 28 TLAC recommendations for appointment, 54% were for female candidates and 46% were for male.

Internal expertise: The report also found that although a greater number of eligible applicants in 2022 came from outside the civil service (58%), the success rate for civil servants securing recommendation (82%) was far greater than for external applicants. “This continued a trend with the majority of candidates recommended for appointment coming from the civil service,” TLAC said.

Opposition MP pledges to reserve 50% of Indian government jobs for women

Ahead of India’s elections, Congress MP Rahul Gandhi has said that his party will reserve 50% of government jobs for women if it is voted to power.

State of play: Gandhi said on X that today only one in three women in India is employed and only one in ten government jobs are held by women. He wrote: “Isn’t the population of women in India 50%? Isn’t the presence of women in higher secondary and higher education 50%? If yes, then why is their participation in the system so low?”

Full potential:  Gandhi said that Congress believes that “the full potential of women will be utilised only when women have equal contribution in the government running the country”. Therefore, he said, Congress has decided that half of all new government jobs should be reserved for women.

Equal destiny: Gandhi is a leading figure in the opposition alliance against incumbent prime minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party. He is also the son, grandson, and great-grandson of former Indian prime ministers.

He is the grandson of Indira Gandhi, India’s first and, to date, only female prime minister, and added: “Having women in 50% of government positions will give strength to every woman in the country and powerful women will change the fate of India.”

Webinar: How to eliminate the gender pay gap in civil and public services

April 30, 2024: Online

Join panellists including Lucille Thirlby, assistant general secretary, FDA, and Vigdís Jóhannsdóttir, chief marketing officer, Digital Iceland, to find out:

  • How governments can devise a strategy to reduce and eliminate the gender pay gap, measure progress over time and build in accountability mechanisms  
  • How to assess and alleviate factors that play into gender pay gaps – such as under-representation of women in higher roles and higher numbers of women working part-time to fulfil caregiving responsibilities at home  
  • The merits of creating a system-wide approach and strong collaboration between agencies, employees and unions to drive success  

Public servants can register here for free to attend this webinar

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