30 September 2011

The Institute of Public Administration (IPANZ) this week provided a forum for discussion about Anne Fitzpatrick’s recent research findings. These explore the deteriorating representation over the last 10 years of women in chief executive positions in the Public Service. The State Services Commission despite being the inevitable villain of the piece, had provided access to its records for the research. 

New Zealand is bucking an international trend. In many of the jurisdictions with which we like to be compared, a growing percentage of chief executive positions have female appointees. The trend here is markedly different. Women qualified for top positions in the Public Service apparently have a negative perception of the role and are less inclined to seek appointment than for example, their Australian counterparts. A summary of the research was published in New Zealand Management last month. 

The audience, comprised largely of the converted, was in agreement with the animated commentaries provided by Len Cook, Amanda Ellis and Karen Sewell. 

State Services agencies have a statutory duty to give effect to employment equality. This duty is reinforced by the principles of public service; fairness is one of the principles and is a primary integrity standard that chief executives are all required to maintain. 

The Open Government Partnership agreed by 46 countries at the United Nations last week emphasises gender equality as one of the four key elements for delivering on the related Open Government Declaration. Perhaps that is a reason why New Zealand has not made a commitment to the Partnership. 

Good practice in gender equality is provided by Norway which has published a white paper of its programme: 

“Norway will promote gender equality and women’s full participation in civic life, the private sector, public administration and political processes, by following up the recommendations of the government white paper on equal pay, launching an effort to have more women apply for top posts in the private sector and undertaking an initiative to strengthen the role of women in local democracy and develop a gender equality program with all municipalities. …. Today ….no committees are submitted to the Government for approval unless there is a gender ratio of at least 4060%. ….The Gender Equality Act … includes …. a “positive duty” for promoting democracy in working life …. of public authorities and boards of private companies ….”