Women gain ground in Northern Ireland’s senior civil service

By on 03/02/2017 | Updated on 25/09/2020
Sir Malcolm McKibben, head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service

Males and Protestants outnumber females and Catholics at the most senior civil service grades in Northern Ireland, while the opposite is true for more junior positions, according to the latest statistics.

The equality statistics for the Northern Ireland civil service, published on 31 January, give a snapshot of the composition of the workforce on 1 April 2016.

Women make up 50.6% of roughly 23,800 staff, up from 47.9% in 2000. A more significant increase can be seen at grade five level and above – heads of division, for example – where women now make up 37.3%: a big rise from 11.3% in 2000. In 2015, 34.9% of the senior civil service – deputy directors and above – was female.

The head of the civil service, Sir Malcolm McKibben, was selected in January by networking body Women in Business to be one of five male gender champions for 2017, in a bid to accelerate the body’s campaign for greater representation of women in the workplace.

According to the statistics, the civil service has seen Protestant representation fall by 7.3 percentage points since 2000. They now make up 51% of the workforce, excluding staff who have not disclosed their community background. More than half of staff in the most senior grades are Protestant, but Catholics now make up over two-fifths – up from a quarter in 2000.

The average age of staff has increased from 39 in 2000 to 45 in 2016. The proportion of staff from a minority ethnic background is 0.3%, while 5.5% of staff have declared a disability.

Recruitment in the civil service has been constrained since November 2014, when an embargo was placed on recruitment and promotion.

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About Tamsin Rutter

Tamsin Rutter is a journalist based in Brussels, Belgium. She writes on a variety of topics, including public services, cities, local and central government and education. She was formerly the deputy editor of the Guardian's Public Leaders Network and Housing Network.

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