Minister Donohoe announces new initiatives for achieving gender balance in the Civil Service

15th January, 2017

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohoe, T.D., today (Sunday) announced a range of initiatives to ensure the composition of the workforce of the civil service reflects a better gender balance in the future, particularly at senior levels.


Minister Donohoe said: ‘I secured Government approval on a range of initiatives to help improve gender balance in the civil service, particularly at senior level, where women are under-represented. This is also part of our efforts to reform our approach to HR generally in the civil service and adopt a new strategic direction to better manage our staff and help put us on the road to becoming an employer of choice’.


Commenting on the new initiatives, Secretary General of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, Robert Watt, said that: ‘We are implementing transformational reforms under our Civil Service Renewal agenda. These include significant developments in senior management performance processes; performance management for all staff; managing underperformance more effectively; investing in more effective learning and development; managing mobility; and implementing robust talent management programmes.’


A key commitment in the Civil Service Renewal Plan is to maximise the contribution of all staff, by nurturing and rewarding talent and by encouraging civil servants to develop their potential in a workplace committed to equality, diversity, and mutual respect.


The new gender balance policy measures have been endorsed by the Government and are framed around practical HR and organisational considerations. The practical steps that will be taken are:

  • A target of 50/50 gender balance in appointments at senior levels.  The merit based approach of ‘best person for the job’ will continue to apply. However, in such cases, where candidates who compete for Top Level Appointments Committee (TLAC) positions are of equal merit, then priority would be given to the female candidate where they are under-represented on the Management Board of the Department/Office in question.
  • The Economic and Social Research Institute has been tasked with conducting research based on the 2015 Civil Service Employee Engagement Survey. The research will also include in-depth interviews with staff from across the civil service. This approach of combining quantitative and qualitative research will provide a more complete picture of the factors influencing the under-representation of women at the senior grades of the civil service.
  • A new Senior Public Service Executive Leadership Programme was launched last December and a Principal Officer Level Leadership Programme will be launched early this year. There is a strong expectation that nominations for these Leadership Programmes would be balanced 50/50 from a gender perspective.
  • The civil service will fully participate in the programme of work being undertaken by the OECD on gender balance and learn from international best practice.


The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform will review the effectiveness of the measures on a regular basis to ensure that they are having an impact over time.




Note to editors:

The Civil Service Renewal Plan is committed to maximising the contribution of all staff by nurturing and rewarding talent and by encouraging civil servants to develop their potential in a workplace committed to equality, diversity and mutual respect.


The Renewal Plan has a focus on achieving greater equality of opportunity, diversity, and gender balance across the workforce to build a civil service that more closely reflects the society in which it works.


One of the actions set out in the Plan is ‘to improve gender balance at each level by reviewing supports and policies to ensure these are impactful and measurable’. This action is particularly important at senior management levels in the civil service where women are under-represented.


The Government has approved proposals for the implementation, insofar as is practicable, of a series of new measures aimed at improving gender balance in the Civil Service, particularly at senior levels. The measures will be included as part of the new HR Strategy for the civil service which is currently being developed.