From the standpoint of June 2012, 57% of the APS workforce was comprised of women, but women made up just fewer than 40% of the Senior Executive Service (SES) (APSC 2012: 148). In all but four departments, women outnumber men. In contrast, at the SES level only four out of 19 departments have more women than men.

There is also considerable variation in representation by both SES level and by agency portfolio – 37% of Band 2 positions are held by women (equivalent to head of division) and 28% of Band 3 positions are held by women (the most senior ranks of management below the Secretary/head level) (APSC 2012:150). Only 20% of departments are headed by women.

Some Key Findings:

  • Men overwhelmingly consider ‘commitment to family responsibilities’ as the most important factor hindering women’s career prospects; this factor stood out as the main barrier perceived by both male SES and EL cohorts.
  • A significant minority of EL men perceived there to be no barriers at all.
  • Interview narratives betray a range of negative perceptions of women: having a family is seen as a sign of a lack of commitment; a tension is identified between being at work and visible OR wanting to be a parent and if not actually in the office are assumed not to be working.
  • SES women nominate family commitments as the most salient barrier, but not to the exclusion of others. However, EL women do not see this factor as quite as significant as some others.
  • ‘Career breaks’ were identified by over half of SES men and women in male-streamed departments which would seem to indicate less tolerance in those departments for career interruptions.
  • Across departments three critical success factors stood out: a reputation for responsiveness and delivering results; a champion and/or executive sponsor; and ‘cultural fit’. But these factors played out differently depending on whether or not the department was male-streamed.
  • In more male-streamed departments, the culture was described as: being ‘driven’ and ‘outcomes focused’ which, in turn, requires a more masculine communication style and the need to fit-in with the dominant culture.

(Excerpt from the report, ANZSOG Institute for Governance)

To find out more, read the full report here.

Categories: Australia