Public administration is the substratum of government and the central instrument through which national policies and programmes are implemented. In an ideal world, the quintessence of public administration is steered by various principles of fairness, justice, accountability, equality and non-discrimination. The idea of such a model of governance is to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment as part of the civil service workforce.
However, the present global scenario is not the same. Instead of being the pushing force towards the implementation of internationally agreed goals on women’s empowerment, gender equality and many other human rights standards, in many developing and developed countries, public administration is often looked as a patriarchal institution. The tradition of gender biases, attitudes and practices are followed to ensure minimal participation of women, especially in the leadership and influential decision-making roles.
According to the Article 21, universal declaration of human rights, “Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives and everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.” With the existence of such equal dogma, public administration is still not tapping the full potential of the country’s workforce. Talking about a country like India, women represent nearly half of the population which gives them an equal chance of equal participation which significantly impacts the women’s economic empowerment. In this article, we will be focusing upon the main trends, challenges and barriers which are affecting the gender equality in public administration as well as how much women’s participation is relevant in the present scenario.
As noted in the introduction, there is no comprehensive global baseline through which certain trends can be observed regarding the presence of gender equality in the public administration. There is some encouraging absolute number of women in public service, but not necessarily in the position of high-level authority or across all sectors uniformly. Women represent 30% of public administration in many countries, but their participation varies greatly from 75% in countries like Ukraine to as low as 12% in India.
Another interesting fact was observed by the Ernst & Young across the G20 major economies. According to them, women account for 48% of the public sector workforce, whereas they still represent less than 20% of the public sector leadership. It was very significant to dig further into what is the actual number of women participating in the public administration. According to the UNDP global report, in many countries where men and women are equal in number for representing the public sector, women tend to be grouped in the junior, less prestigious and low pay scale positions. They were more clustered in traditionally considered “soft” or “feminized” sectors such as health, education, culture and tourism. In most of the core as well as other semi-periphery countries, women are underrepresented. Sectors like security, finance and planning are majorly dominated by men.
Although from the very beginning, this write-up has focused on the decision making position at the national level, the pattern of women participation in the local government is worth highlighting. For most people, local government plays a very crucial role in impacting the livelihood of common people than the national parliament; especially when the local government delivers the key service. In such cases, women participation is higher at the sub-national level than the national level, which ensures greater women empowerment and gender equality. With more participation of women and gender-balanced boards, research has reflected efficient and ameliorating governance.
The European Commission had published data showing that companies with the highest number of women on their board had a 41% higher return as compared to the companies with no woman on their board. The management consulting firm McKinsey & Company has also found that during 2005 and 2007, companies with the most gender-diverse management teams had 17% higher stock price growth compared to the other average industry. With such positive facts and figures, it is said that average women participation is nearly 30% in the public administration, whose goal is to ensure a better standard of living for the citizen as well as the overall development of the nation.
Now, it is clear that public administration has still not accepted the full potential and talents of women. The explanation of why women are still underrepresented in the decision-making process is still based on certain assumptions which lack a rational basis. Both men and women have their capacities, competencies which drive them toward life goals and their willingness to take responsibility in their professional sphere of life. Besides, women are also influenced by the broader, socio-cultural gender-based values and norms. It has been seen that gender equality and women empowerment benefits not only women but also their own families, community and country. Likewise, gender equality in public administration is not only going to benefit women but the civil society as a whole.
The current decision-makers, men, should encourage and involve more in equal representation issues. It is critical that awareness-raising efforts must include male leaders and staff so that each element of public administration can be capacitated to become more involved in gender equality. With tenacious efforts and speculation over time, women’s participation and leadership can be a reality where women’s talent and full potential will be respectfully recognised. Such recognition will reap a benefit to all elements of the public administration.