Women Leaders Index Gender Equality Case Study: Malta

By on 05/09/2017 | Updated on 20/03/2018
The Women leaders Index examines gender equality in Malta's senior civil service.

Every country has a different story to tell on women leaders in the civil service. Interviewing experts on the findings of our Women Leaders Index – which tracks the proportion of female senior civil servants, national politicians and business leaders in G20 and EU member states – we’ve examined the agenda’s achievements and the remaining obstacles in 11 national case studies

In 2004, only one in ten of Malta’s top civil servants were female. But that proportion has been rising consistently since 2007, and now nearly two in five are women. Malta is now closing in fast on the EU average.

According to Renee Laiviera, Commissioner at the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality (NCPE), this impressive progress is the fruit of several actions taken by the Maltese civil service to enable women to continue building their careers even whilst bringing up children.

Malta has shown remarkably consistent progress since 2004, rising steadily from 10 points behind the EU average to a tiny two point deficit in the latest data. The proportion of women in its top two civil service grades has grown from 10.7% to some 38.1% over that period.

Laiviera says the organisation realised that the introduction of family-friendly measures such as supported parental leave was actually hindering the progression of women’s careers. “If you’re on parental leave you’re not at work, so you miss out on professional development,” she says. “And when you come back and sit for interviews you are at a disadvantage to your colleagues who have continued. Because these family-friendly measures are mostly taken up by women, men continue with their career progression and women fall back.”

This was an unsatisfactory situation for the Maltese civil service, she says, because “we knew we needed to have the experiences and talents and skills of women, which may be different from those of men. We wanted a more holistic talent pool at the top. And there was a consciousness that there were very good people who were being lost over the years.”

So in 2007 and 2008, the service brought in two new policies: one introducing flexible hours, and one encouraging teleworking. Both have had a huge impact, Laiviera says – particularly teleworking.

“Most of the time it is women who have taken these options up; it means that their career progression continues,” she says. “They don’t lose out on that experience at work, in learning more skills and being involved in the workplace, and this has meant that women’s talent continued to develop and be appreciated.”

Renee Laiviera, Commissioner, National Commission for the Promotion of Equality, Malta

In order to give the policy the best chance at success, the Commission organised training sessions for civil service managers on effective management of staff based in remote locations.

Tracking of the uptake of these tools has proved their value. In 2009, 34 women and 37 men in the top five grades made use of flexi-time and family-friendly measures (not including maternity leave); by 2015, this had grown to 143 women and 67 men.

Likewise, in 2009 just eight women and no men in the highest grades utilised teleworking; by 2015, 40 women and eight men did so.

Similar increases are also shown in the feeder grades, meaning the pipeline of female talent has also strengthened.

Besides this, the public service has a gender mainstreaming policy whereby it ensures there are no discriminatory practices in vacancies for job ads and selection processes, and that interviewing comprise both men and women.

In 2014, the government also introduced free childcare for parents in work and education, as well as breakfast and after-school clubs. Since then, the number of women re-entering the labour market after childbirth has risen by 6%.

As a result of all these initiatives, says Laiviera, the numbers of men and women working in the public sector has almost reached parity, whereas previously men significantly outnumbered women.  This puts Malta on a much surer footing to achieve equality in senior leadership in the future.


Click here for the full results of Global Government Forum’s 2016-17 Women Leaders Index

Or click through to our case studies on Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Turkey and the UK.

About Tania Mason

Journalist and an expert in organisational and management issues.

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