Empowering the female leaders in the Civil Service

Empowering the female leaders in the Civil Service

Wednesday, 19th of June

Building better gender-balanced institutions is integral to creating a better world. Right now, over half of the Civil Service are women and more than 40% of the senior civil servants are women – this is real progress!

Some of this is down to the Civil Service’s approach to flexible working, which has become an essential part of working life in the Civil Service. Opportunities to job-share or work part-time are also very common, even at senior levels. These arrangements not only work for women but allow for people to retain their diverse lifestyles and also excel and perform well at work.

There has also been a real drive to build networks across the civil service and within departments, a great way for women to support and inspire each other. Mentoring and recently, reverse mentoring, is rather common and encouraged within the Civil Service, giving people the chance to learn from diverse experiences. As a woman from a BME background working in the Civil Service, I consider these opportunities to be integral to help promote and understand the intersection and diversity of identities within the Civil Service. 

One woman who has inspired me and fellow colleagues is Sharon White. After gaining an economics degree from Cambridge, Sharon spent time working for a church in a deprived part of Birmingham. She joined the Civil Service in 1989, starting her Civil Service career at the Treasury and going on to work in various departments including the Department for International Development and 10 Downing Street. She became Director General for Public Spending at the Treasury from 2012 to 2013 and then became the Second Permanent Secretary in 2013 – the first black person to become a Permanent Secretary at the Treasury and the second woman since the 1980s.  She is now running the show at John Lewis Partnership, as the Chairman and is the first woman - and black person - to have done so. Go Sharon! 

If you’re interested in hearing more stories like the above and want to read a guide on navigating professional working life as a black woman in particular, I would highly recommend the book “Slay in your Lane: The Black Girl Bible” by Elizabeth Uviebinené and Yomi Adegoke, a thoroughly informative and encouraging read.

If you’re feeling inspired, the Civil Service are looking for people from all backgrounds to become our future senior leaders. Take a look at the Fast Stream website to find out more, including how to pre-register for applications in Autumn 2019.

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