Women Leadership; Glass Panes Yet To Be Broken

Women Leadership; Glass Panes yet to get broken

A large number of high-profile women leaders have been in the spotlight globally for their service during the time of Covid 19. However, women only make up less than one in three of the top leadership positions in public administration globally, reveals a new data by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Gender Inequality Research Lab (GIRL) at the University of Pittsburgh.

The Gender Equality in Public Administration (GEPA) report, the first comprehensive in-depth research into the issue covering 170 countries, noted that women are well represented in public administration in many countries but remain significantly outnumbered by men in leadership and decision-making positions.

The latest report comes amidst several countries continuing to grapple with fallout from the COVID-19 crisis and its staggering economic and social impacts on women and girls. It is also released at a time when the world is witnessing an alarming rise in violence against women and girls as well as large job and income loss.

Meanwhile, UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner stated that COVID-19’s effects are not gender-neutral. It was crucial for governments to take steps with respect to the needs, rights and expectations of women and girls, Steiner added. “Women must also fully participate in public institutions and have a seat at the table when governments are crafting their policy responses and determining the best way forward from the crisis. The pivotal decisions being made today will affect the well-being of people and planet for generations to come. Sustainable recovery is only possible when women are able to play a full role in shaping a post-COVID-19 world that works for all of us,” the administrator said.


The report underlines that women are significantly outnumbered by men in leadership and decision-making positions despite their progress in public administration in many countries. On average women are 46 percent of public administrators, but hold only 31 percent of top leadership positions and comprise only 30 percent of senior managers, the report stated.


The report points out the need for gender equality for an inclusive and accountable public administration. It said that governments become more responsive and more accountable when women take leadership roles in public administration. Besides this, quality of public services delivered also significantly improves, said the report. It states this by elaborating that when women are in power, overlooked policy issues, such as ending violence against women, childcare services and healthcare, get more attention and there is often less government corruption and political parties are more likely to work together.


The GEPA report shows that despite women plays a significant role in health service have a very limited role in health policy decision making, including in COVID-19 response. Though 58 percent of employees in health Ministries are women, they average only 34 percent of decision making positions. The report also mentioned of low representation of women in COVID-19 government task forces, who are leading the pandemic response. The authors say that women make up on average 27 percent of the positions and lead 18 percent of task forces of the 300 national COVID-19 task forces examined in 163 countries and territories.


The report notes that women remain concentrated in some areas but find unrepresented in others. They form the highest in ministries focused on women’s issues, health and education. However, they are underrepresented in 15 of the 20 policy areas. The Public Works and Transportation reported the lowest share of women. The GEPA authors point out progress towards gender parity in three high-profile policy areas traditionally considered the domain of men. They include ministries of defence, foreign affairs and finance. Globally, women average 41 percent of finance ministries, 40 percent of foreign affairs ministries, and 36 percent of defence ministries. Between 2010 and 2020, women’s average share of positions increased by 11 percentage points in ministries of defence, 6 in foreign affairs, and 10 in finance, the report said.


Women’s participation in environmental protection ministries is among the lowest of the 20 policy areas. It averages 33 percent globally, and parity in decision-making in environmental protection is rare, potentially hampering more effective climate action and a green recovery, the report said.


The GEPA has come up with five sets of recommendations to help shift the balance of power and shatter these glass panes;

1. Promote synergies with the broader gender equality agenda.
  • Develop national gender equality plans with concrete mechanisms for implementation and accountability.
  • Develop evidence-based correlation between gender equality in public administration, inclusive institutions and quality public policy outcomes for all.
  • Support women’s education and preparedness for civil service careers, with a focus on young women. Promote equal education of girls and boys, young women and men, at primary, secondary and tertiary
  • Contribute to women’s visibility and gender equality in traditional and social media.
2. Strengthen constitutional, legislative and policy frameworks.
  • Harmonize laws and national action plans governing public administration with the Beijing Platform for Action’s commitments.
  • Ensure that provisions that promote gender equality are included in drafting processes in constitutional reviews.
  • Legislation and policy must be grounded in international norms and standards, including CEDAW.
  • Develop gender equality laws to uphold gender equality as a national priority.
  • Consider quotas across public bodies and temporary special measures (TSM).
  • Create a national gender budget and national gender equality plan.
3. Support institutional change within public administration.
  • Re-imagine the public administration post-COVID-19 to position gender equality as central.
  • Harness the opportunity for public policy institutions to build back more gender-responsive societies, economies and governments.
  • Develop innovative public policies for gender equality, such as counting unpaid care in national accounting systems, universal social and care services, transforming social norms through fiscal policies (e.g. parental leave, taxation benefits, public transfers) and reforming the segregation of the labour market.
  • Incorporate women’s voices, needs and rights into pandemic recovery planning and decision-making to ensure more gender-responsive policies.
  • Challenge and reform the overall workplace culture in public administration. Public administration should model a gender-responsive senior management culture.
  • Penalize sexism and harassment in institutional cultures. Promote work-life balance for women and men. This can affirm gender equality in the workplace and transform the culture of senior management into one that is gender-inclusive.
  • Implement inclusive and transparent human resources policies. These include gender-responsive recruitment and selection procedures, such as recruitment targets, gender-balanced recruitment and promotions panels, gender training for recruitment managers and targeted outreach to women.
  • Reform performance evaluation processes to ensure that women’s careers are not held back by gender discrimination.
  • Support capacity-building for managers and all employees on gender-responsive practices.
  • Invest in leadership training and professional development of women public administration employees to address the gender gap in senior management levels.
  • Invest in capacity-building and technical assistance for gender mainstreaming specifically in sectors dominated by men, such as the energy, mining, environment and climate change.
  • Build capacity on gender mainstreaming across public administration. Strengthen the capacity of civil servants on gender mainstreaming and COVID-19 and crisis response. Implement initiatives such as the UNDP Gender Equality Seal for Public Institutions that support organizations to ‘walk the talk.
4. Strengthen commitment to data availability to track progress on women in decision making in public service, SDG 16 and Agenda 2030.
  • Commit to investments in quality data collection (and the availability of data) on gender parity in public administration to support evidence-based policy and programming.
  • Support Member States’ commitment to carry out Voluntary National Reviews (VNRS).
5. Leverage partnerships and convening power to build strong global, regional and national partnerships for organizational change.
  • Improve coordination among United Nations entities and partners, and ensure that gender equality is integrated into interagency groups on public administration.
  • Work in partnership to increase women’s leadership and decision-making in climate negotiations. Foster partnerships with actors in politics and business who are also working on gender equality.
  • Partner with UN Women on women’s leadership and participation in public life.
  • Build on good practice of UN Women’s programmes on leadership and political participation for work on GEPA.
  • Collaborate with other important partners including iKNOW Politics.
  • Engage with the UN System-wide Action Plan for Mainstreaming Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women
  • Harness new partnerships to challenge social norms that restrict women’s participation in public life and decision
  • Invest in non-government organizations and women’s movements. NGOs working on women’s participation in decision-making in public life are important for efforts to change social norms hampering gender equality.
  • Utilize convening power to work with partners to build more gender-responsive public institutions.




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