Civil servant issues diversity challenge

Private sector employers should learn from their public sector counterparts when it comes to promoting diversity, according to the UK’s top civil servant.

Cabinet secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell laid down the gauntlet as he unveiled a 10-point plan to improve diversity in government departments. The programme includes linking the pay and bonuses of senior civil servants to whether their departments hit diversity targets.

The CBI has repeatedly called for tougher performance measures in the public sector to keep tabs on the performance of Civil Service mandarins.

But O’Donnell said that public sector figures should instead be “pushing the private sector to get in there” to improve diversity.

O’Donnell said that the number of women in senior positions in the Civil Service showed just how far ahead of the private sector it is.

Government figures show that women now hold one in four (26%) of the top management posts in the Civil Service.

In contrast, figures from business consultancy Deloitte’s 2005 Board Structure and Remuneration report show that only 3% of executive directors and 9% of non-executive directors in the FTSE 350 are women. In 2005, the number of female non-executive directors rose by just 1%.

“When you look at the FTSE directors and you look at the proportion of women, it’s not good,” O’Donnell told Personnel Today. “You have to ask yourself, is British business missing out by not getting the advantages of a much more diverse workforce?”

Waqar Azmi, the government’s chief diversity adviser, added that diversity levels among senior managers in the public sector compared “very well with the private sector”.

A spokesman from the Institute of Directors said women made up 17% of new members last year – up from 11% the year before. “We would like to see more women joining, but this does offer some encouragement,” he said.

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