UK civil service celebrates International Women’s Day

By on 08/03/2017 | Updated on 25/09/2020
Emma Howard Boyd, chair, Environment Agency

Civil servants across the UK have come together to celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD) 2017.

Cross-government events have been taking place in London, Cardiff, Manchester, Bristol, Exeter and Cambridge under the international banner ‘Be Bold For Change’.

Environment Agency chair Emma Howard Boyd joined a range of speakers from various government departments and other organisations at the London event today.

Boyd told Global Government Forum that her department has seen the representation of women in executive management rise from 25% in 2010 to 37% in 2015.

“I have long felt that we will only achieve real, measurable progress on diversity not by ‘fixing the women’ or ‘beating up the men’, but through men and women working together to improve culture and achieve more diversity of thought at all levels,” she said.

The UK civil service’s theme for IWD 2017 is ‘Brilliantly Diverse’, celebrating the diversity of women in government in relation, for example, to race, sexual orientation, disability or class identity.

Keela Shackell-Smith, who leads the Environment Agency’s Women’s Network, said: “We also want to look at diversity in its broadest sense, celebrating diversity of personality, learning style, social economic background and difference.”

Cabinet secretary and head of the civil service Sir Jeremy Heywood has pledged to make diversity and inclusion a priority, and Shackell-Smith told this website: “The civil service has a clear ambition to become the most inclusive employer in the UK.

“We have made some good progress to date around gender diversity in the civil service, but we know that there is still more to do, and events such as those arranged for International Women’s Day are a great way to raise awareness of this.”

Programmes such as the 2014 civil service talent action plan, as well as a new approach towards maternity leave and flexible working practices, have helped to bring a record number of women into senior positions in Whitehall, said Shackell-Smith.

“We are committed to continuing to work towards our ambition of making the civil service the most inclusive employer in the UK, where we recruit and retain the most talented people irrespective of background,” she added.

The Cardiff event, organised by the DVLA, the Department for Transport, Crossing Thresholds, the Cross Government Women’s Network and Set The Scene, will be hosted by Ann Jones AM, deputy presiding officer at the National Assembly for Wales.

Jones said: “International Women’s Day is a day of global significance that gives us all an opportunity to reflect on the economic, political and social achievements of women, both past and present.

“The day is particularly significant here in Wales, where the National Assembly for Wales has become widely recognised as a beacon of progress in establishing higher levels of representation for women in politics.”

Events have also been taking place to celebrate International Women’s Day in civil services across the world. Malaysia’s higher education ministry secretary general Tan Sri Dr Noorul Ainur Mohd Nur headed up celebrations in Putrajaya. And in France, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development has produced a video on women in senior diplomacy over the years, featuring a female ambassador, a director and a consul general discussing their career challenges and how best to promote women in the ministry.

For up to date government news and international best practice follow us on Twitter @globegov

See also:

Tina Tchen, former Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls: Exclusive Interview

Queen celebrates diversity with female civil service leaders

Women gain ground in Northern Ireland’s senior civil service


New Australian women leaders foundation to be led by ABC TV news presenter

Women prioritised in dead heat contests for top Irish jobs

Women leaders top priority for UK’s incoming civil service commissioner

Frances Adamson appointed first woman to lead Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade


About Martha Moss

Martha Moss is a journalist with a background covering European and UK politics. She was based in Brussels for four years, where she specialised in reporting on the European Parliament - particularly on environmental, gender, justice and international development issues.

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